Kung Fu Panda (2008) **1/2*

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1hr 32min
Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
Stars: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie
Genre: Comedy
Language: English

A Fresh Approach to the Problem of Panda Obesity

In a Nutshell


Straight as an Arrow

Sound Quality

Easy to Hear

Who's That?

Few Main Characters

Naughty Words


Naked people




Kids enjoy it. Little ones, big ones — all laugh at the fat jokes and gratuitous humiliations. But then, they laughed just as heartily a few minutes earlier during the preview for Wall-E, which promises to be charming. In the grand annals of animated film, from heart wrenching Bambi and Pinocchio, through madcap Roadrunner, and Bugs Bunny, right up to the philosophical Lion King and Finding Nemo, it is unlikely that Kung Fu Panda will endure.

Unquestionably, the animator’s art is alive and well. Kung Fu Panda offers exquisite visual moments, often in casual transition from scene to scene. Vivid abstractions combine spontaneity and control like the stroke of a brush on rice paper. Voluptuous nature and grand architecture in pastel pinks and greens manage to avoid cliché. DreamWorks Animation SKG gets all the credit for the elegant chinoiserie, rather than individual artists responsible for it, and they must have been legion.

The adult viewer will crave such distraction from long, complex action sequences that go by in such a blur the eye cannot possibly “read” them, and morals so ponderously delivered that they grind action to a halt like a bad Friday evening commute. Okay, it’s really important to believe, especially in yourself, to reject others’ limited view of what you might achieve, and to grasp the transcendent value of the present. For our children to understand, however, must these nostrums be writ so fundamentally LARGE?

Besides trying too hard to make too many points, Kung Fu Panda suffers from the slow death of plot-by-committee. It will spoil nothing to itemize: you’ve got Po (voice of Jack Black), a clinically obese giant black panda, fathered miraculously by a goose. Po dreams of Kung Fu glory while his “dad”, who missed the casting call for Ratatouille, grooms him for a career in the making and marketing of noodle soup. You’ve got Kung Fu Master Shishu (voice of Dustin Hoffman), a small red panda and a dead ringer for Star Wars’ Yoda. Shishu raised an orphaned snow leopard in the martial arts only to watch his protégé, Tai Lung (voice of Ian McShane), turn to the dark side. Left to smolder in a mountain stronghold, Tai Lung waits to destroy the Peaceful Valley and every furry critter in it. You’ve got the Furious Five (lots of great voices), an invincible cadre of Shishu’s creation, each hoping to be anointed as “Dragon Warrior” by Oogway (voice of Randall Duk Kim), the all-wise turtle who — without appearing at all indisposed — suddenly announces “my time has come”, and ascends in a cloud of rose petals and an oriental melody written in the pentatonic mode.

There’s plenty more story where all this came from and it’s amazing that it coheres as well as it does. The most potent life lesson of Kung Fu Panda is learned — of course — in real time and through the power of example. Shishu sees that Po’s food addiction can be harnessed to accelerate his “crash course” in the art of deadly force. In one of the film’s best and most artistic action sequences, the teacher withholds oral gratification. Blubbery Po, finally focused and fully in the moment, rises above his need for it.

Obesity, an issue of national concern especially in regard to children, is not handled with great sensitivity in this film. The message is mixed: Fat is Fair Game for Derision. And: Fat Rules. But, let’s not quibble. By and large, Kung Fu Panda is clever, and good, mainstream family fun.

Lynn McCann's checkered professional life began with dance and has included singing and acting, writing and journalism, teaching and tutoring. A long career as a computer programmer is mercifully behind her and she looks forward to publishing a memoir, a biography, and a popular history of automation technology. She continues to perform as a singer, and leads New York City tours for Elderhostel.


Tania said on December 2, 2012


Awww! Super nice pink Adidas cap! Looks good on the little miss! My Pinks:Thanks and hope to see you! P.S. I am your new GFC foowller. Hope you can follow me, too!

Leah said on January 23, 2014


You simply copied somebody else’s story
Leah http://blogtext.org/kevinmccray24

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