PREPARE FOR AWESOMENESS.
Po, a big, lazy panda, is unexpectedly named the Dragon Warrior by a wise turtle and must be trained by a reluctant kung fu master. This DreamWorks CGI spectacle has brilliant animation, an enormous energy and a dedicated cast that help overcome the predictability. There is no doubt that Po will get his act together and defeat his nemesis, a vicious snow leopard, but the journey is a pleasant one to take (not least because of the filmmakers’ obvious interest in old kung fu movies). As a Jack Black vehicle the film also works; he’s terrific as the panda looking for awesomeness, and Dustin Hoffman matches him as his annoyed master.
2008-U.S. Animated. 91 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Melissa Cobb. Directed by Mark Osborne, John Stevenson.Voices of Jack Black (Po), Dustin Hoffman (Shifu), Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen… Lucy Liu, Michael Clarke Duncan.
Trivia: Followed by two sequels, starting with Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011).
Last word: “It’s definitely a marathon doing one of these things. There was one scene with Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman which we couldn’t get quite right and we asked them to redo it on 15 or 20 different occasions over 18 months. It became known as the ‘Po and Shifu have it out’ scene, and we only got it right towards the end. With a title like ‘Kung Fu Panda’, you need to make it funny but also give the audience more than they were expecting. Great action scenes but also real emotional weight. In the pursuit of being truthful with that scene, we had to keep on working and working.” (Stevenson, Screen Daily)