Kung Fu Panda
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that kids will definitely want to see this heavily promoted (including McDonald's Happy Meals) animated film -- which stars kid fave Jack Black as the voice of the main character, Po. And its humor and heartwarming story will appeal to grown-ups, too. The movie boasts positive messages about being who you are and believing in yourself, but it is martial arts-themed, so expect plenty of fast-paced battle scenes with kicks, punches, falls, and more. Even though they're animated, some sequences -- especially the one in which intimidating villain Tai Lung escapes from prison -- may be a little too scary for kindergartners and younger. Families who buy this on DVD as the "Pandamonium Double Pack" are also getting a cartoon short called Secrets of the Furious Five. See our review.
What's the story?
Can you achieve greatness if you're not destined for it? Of all the possible kung fu masters-to-be, Po (Jack Black) -- a lumbering, lovable panda -- seems the least likely candidate. Besides, his family's in the noodle business, and that's where his father (improbably, a goose) expects him to make his mark. But a snafu at the Jade Palace leaves Po as the top pick for the legendary Dragon Warrior. The position comes with a huge responsibility: The Dragon Warrior is charged with protecting the town from Tai Lung (Ian McShane), a brilliant kung fu master who crossed over to the dark side. He's been locked up for years, but now he's on his way to defeat Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and his elite Furious Five. Can unlikely hero Po stand his ground and save the day?
Is it any good?
KUNG FU PANDA is a pleasure, and Po is the ideal animated incarnation of the engaging, electric Black. He's wonderful here, giving Po the perfect mix of irreverence and sincerity. When he meets his idols, the Furious Five -- Ferocious Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Monkey (Jackie Chan) -- he's charmingly awestruck. To watch him metamorphose from clumsy kung fu fan to master is a delight. And the message -- there's no secret to greatness besides faith in yourself -- is admirable.
The movie's story may not be as inventive as, say, Finding Nemo, but it's undeniably charming. And there are definitely moments of brilliance: A training battle between Shifu and Po involving chopsticks and a lone dumpling will go down as one of the best in cartoon -- and maybe even kung fu -- history.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Po's decision to follow his dreams and pursue martial arts greatness. Was he right? What makes Po different from the other heroes in the movie? What do they learn from him? And what does Po's ease with himself teach young viewers? What makes him such a great kung fu warrior?
|Theatrical release date:||June 6, 2008|
|DVD release date:||November 9, 2008|
|Cast:||Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Black|
|Genre:||Family and Kids|
|Topics:||Sports and martial arts, Misfits and underdogs, Wild animals|
|Run time:||88 minutes|
|MPAA explanation:||sequences of martial arts action.|