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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that kids are sure to enjoy Kung Fu Panda, which stars Jack Black as the voice of the relatable 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 too scary for kindergartners and younger. Families who buy this on DVD as part of the "Pandamonium Double Pack" are also getting a cartoon short called Secrets of the Furious Five.
What's the story?
KUNG FU PANDA asks the question -- 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?
This family movie 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.
Kung Fu Panda'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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Po's decision to follow his dreams and pursue martial arts greatness in Kung Fu Panda. Was he right?
What makes Po different from the other heroes in the movie? What do they learn from him? How do they demonstrate teamwork?
What does Po's ease with himself teach young viewers? What makes him such a great kung fu warrior?
- In theaters: June 6, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: November 9, 2008
- Cast: Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Black
- Director: Mark Osborne
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and martial arts, Misfits and underdogs, Wild animals
- Character strengths: Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, Teamwork
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: sequences of martial arts action.
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.