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A corpulent panda named Po likes to dream
Of joining the fabulous martial arts team,
The Furious Five, who include Crane and Monkey,
Viper and Mantis and Tigress. But chunky
Young Po knows that they are way out of his league:
A noodle shop job is enough to fatigue.
His “father,” a goose, doesn’t know Po’s desire,
And so he is shocked when he sees Po conspire
To see the foretold Dragon Warrior named.
They’re all thunderstruck when it’s Po who’s proclaimed.
Great Master Shifu is not happy one bit
And does all he can to convince Po to quit.
But Po endures lots of ferocious abuse
And takes it in stride as the pain is let loose.
But Tai Lung, a pupil that Shifu did fail,
Who’s greedy for power, has broken from jail,
So Shifu then follows his master’s advice
And trains Po much better by using his vice.
With dumplings and soup, Po improves his kung fu,
And Shifu’s impressed at what pandas can do.
Po’s heroes run off ere their foe can arrive,
But Tai Lung defeats the famed Furious Five.
Po doubts he can win; Tai Lung’s out of control,
And Po gets little help from the blank Dragon Scroll.
When Tai Lung arrives, he beats Shifu to pulp,
But Po calls him out with an uneasy gulp.
Their fight gives Tai Lung the best part of abuse,
And Po puts his overweight flab to good use.
Defeating Tai Lung with a move few can do,
The new Dragon Warrior proves his kung fu.

Kung Fu Panda is an exciting homage to the Chinese wuxia genre with lots of fighting and humor and one big panda. When the film first came out, I wasn’t interested in the least, as has been the case with several CGI movies of late, but, once I gave it a chance when it came on television, I was favorably impressed. Quite a few famous actors lend their voices to DreamWorks’s characters, and, though most aren’t given much to say, Jack Black as Po, Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu, and Ian McShane as Tai Lung are certainly the most well-cast roles. Jack Black’s fanboy enthusiasm alternates between hilarious and annoying, but he makes Po endearing overall. The film also has some lovely animation, though I don’t care for some of the character designs and did not find the animation as stunning as many critics hailed.

The main draw for me, though, is the action. I haven’t seen many martial arts films, but some of the choreographed fights in this movie took my breath away. It all gets a bit repetitive by the end, particularly with the overuse of slow-motion shots, but Tai Lung’s rope bridge fight with the Furious Five and especially the villain’s jailbreak are among the best animated action sequences, in my opinion.

While there’s some “kung fu-ey” mysticism and the end has a hackneyed “believe in yourself” lesson, Po’s zealous perseverance in the midst of difficulty is admirable, and Shifu’s relationship with Tai Lung manages to evoke some pathos as well. Kung Fu Panda succeeds in combining laughs and thrills in an entertaining way that has made it one of DreamWorks Animation’s most successful franchises.

Best line: (Shifu, as Po is doing this) “Panda, we do not wash our pits in the Pool of Sacred Tears.”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 6
Entertainment: 7
Visual Effects: 7
Originality: 4
Watchability: 6
Other (some awkward, less-than-funny scenes): -4
TOTAL: 32 out of 60

Next: #288: Kung Fu Panda 2 (yep)

© 2014 S. G. Liput