As the world's most influential movie critic I carry a heavy burden on my broad and chiseled shoulders. If I choose to cast a movie down into a vast, desolate darkness it could potentially cost the studio billions of dollars. Grim casualties of my dismissal would be the stars and starlets who would almost certainly be thrown out of their homes in the hours following the publishing of my scathing review. I imagine the SEAL foreclosure team creeping up in the dead of night, printed internet page in hand, ready to set flame to everything in sight (including antiques).
It's an awkward place for me to be in, as an arbiter of all that's good about film. For example, the news came down this week that Jack Black just had another kid. Do you think I want to be the guy who makes Jack Black's kid homeless? No. No, I do not.
Thankfully Kung Fu Panda just made my job easier by actually being a good film. This was a strange feeling after the bloated and overhyped Indy Jones and the Quest for Average Joe's Money and the furor that followed a review merely calling Iron Man "must-see."
But Panda is damned good! And I don't mean this in a "filtered through the prism of seeing it with a kid and suffering through" sort of way. I mean it's actually good. It's funny. It will make you say "Ha." You will have a good time, even if you're the sort who normally doesn't have a good time (see: Eeyore). It's silly in a way that so few movies are these days, and it's almost as if they hired actual writers with legitimate talent that cared about their craft and didn't phone it in while figuring that half the internet would stick up for them no matter what they put out. And yes I know that's a giant run-on sentence but we're busy deconstructing what a movie review is over here. Plus it's truly the way I would have audibly stated that sentiment, with a huge sigh predicating it and then a torrent of words. Because I don't get why more movies aren't this good, and why we continually make excuses for clearly inferior products under the guise of saying, "Well, it's just entertainment." Kung Fu Panda is entertaining, but it also has artistic merit. Am I confused as to why it took Jack Black and a movie about a martial arts Panda to knock it out of the park? Yes, for certain.
Kung Fu Panda is the story of a panda who dreams of breaking out of his father's soup kitchen (not what it sounds like) and becoming a master of kung fu. His dad (a bird of some sort) wants him to make soup and noodles for the people as generations of his family have. Po the panda has other ideas. When fate meets chance, Po is thrust into a web of intrigue and deadly combat. He's joined by a team that consists of a snake (Lucy Liu), a mantis (Seth Rogen), a tiger (Angelina Jolie), a monkey (Jackie Chan), and a crane (David Cross). There's a message for the kids embedded within and some fun with slo-mo animation. But most of all, there's heart. Kung Fu Panda is a film with a saucy, vibrant heart.
The laughs come from a variety of angles, as is to be expected from writers who penned a few episodes of King of the Hill. The film starts somewhat slowly with your standard fifteen minutes of Wile E. Coyote-style site gags. It builds momentum, and the one-liners Black offers at every turn start finding their mark around the 30 minute point. From then on the movie is a solid entertainment value, worth the investment of your time and treasure. The Dreamworks team has made a very purty product and deserves accolades galore.
So I'm calling this one a "see" and allowing everyone involved to keep their homes. This movie reviewin' gig has moments of true joy and this panda film was one of them this year. I wish everyone involved success. This is the best PG film I've seen in ... well, forever, and I would actually recommend this over The Zohan on just about every level. The panda plays, my friends, and it plays in a big way. Get on board or get run over by the freight train that is film.com. We have spoken. Let no man put our word asunder. [film.com]