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Po the Panda (voice of Jack Black) is kung fu crazy, but working in his family's noodle shop doesn't give him the opportunity to use it. When he is unexpectedly chosen to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Po joins the world of kung fu, studying alongside his idols, the legendary Furious Five: Tigress (voice of Angelina Jolie); Crane (voice of David Cross); Mantis (voice of Seth Rogen); Viper (voice of Lucy Liu); and Monkey (voice of Chan) - under the leadership of their guru, Master Shifu (voice of Dustin Hoffman). But the treacherous snow leopard Tai Lung (voice of Ian McShane) is headed their way, and it's up to Po to defend everyone from the oncoming threat. Can he turn his dreams of becoming a kung fu master into reality? Po puts his heart into the task, and the unlikely hero ultimately finds that his greatest weaknesses turn out to be his greatest strengths.

Review by Louise Keller:
Filled with abundant slapstick and visual comedy, this family-friendly animation is sure to amuse the youngsters with its roly-poly panda hero antics and inventive effects. The production design and animation is highly imaginative, but its predictable and formulaic script is less impressive. In many ways, the film's black and white star Po, aptly voiced by Jack Black, overwhelms all the other characters, as the kung-fu obsessed portly panda that learns to believe in himself before defeating his adversary and realising his dream. The writers however, have forgotten to ground the story in reality, so much of the film's impact relies on its striking visuals and exotic Eastern backdrops. It's not as funny as I expected and the star-studded cast is almost a distraction; I found myself listening for the distinctive voices of Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogan, most of whom have little opportunity to make a mark.

The opening scenes are played just for laughs when we meet Po in his daily setting, a noodle restaurant run by his father who tells him: 'We all have our place in this world.' The fact that Po's father is not a Panda but a goose is quirky, and yes, it does come up at one point as a tease. The film goes quickly to its kung-fu themes. Randall Duk Kim effectively voices the Yoda-esque turtle Oogway, who comes up with wise sayings like 'There are no accidents,' (when Po is accidentally selected to become the Dragon Warrior); 'There is no good or bad news... just news' (when the terrifying Tai Lung escapes); 'Take your opponents' strength and use it against him.'

We relate most to Dustin Hoffman's tiny wolf, Master Shifu, who is given the unenviable task to ready the clumsy panda for his mission. In a cute twist on finding the positive on a negative, Master Shifu uses Po's compulsion for eating to train and motivate him. In one of the most hilarious routines, Po practices sit ups and push ups from tree branches and contorts his oversize body to try to win the prize of a bowl of dumplings that are kept clearly in view. Another spectacular routine involves the Furious Five kung-fu experts in a well choreographed battle on suspension bridges that are slung high above the clouds.

The animation makes full use of the Chinese themes and I loved the idea that a single peach tree blossom can upset the delicate balance of the precariously positioned dragon scroll. There are no surprises to the storyline however, and while 88 may be a good length for such an animation, that length of time with a continual barrage of hyperactive Jack Black-isms can get a little wearing.

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(US, 2008)

VOICES: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu

PRODUCER: Melissa Cobb

DIRECTOR: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson

SCRIPT: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger


EDITOR: Clare De Chenu, C.K. Horness

MUSIC: John Powell, Hans Zimmer


RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes



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