Just as I predicted, I was unable to escape the Panda. The massive marketing campaign seeped into the unsuspecting mind of my children until it wove its evil web around my....
Okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic.
But the Panda has been in my face a lot lately and we finally succumbed to the pressure and took the kids to see the movie today.
Overall, I thought it was cute enough but not a movie I would rave about. Before we went and saw it I went to Rotten Tomatoes to check out the reviews and saw an 88% positive rating so I expected the movie to be better than my first impressions would indicate. But really, it didn't do as much for me as I had hoped it would.
Plot-wise the movie is very simple. Po (Jack Black) is a Panda who dreams of being a Kung Fu master. Hearing about a martial arts demonstration in which the legendary Dragon Master will be chosen, Po launches himself into the middle of the proceedings. Po is then chosen, apparently by accident, to be the Dragon Master, to the anger of the other martial arts masters who were vying for the title.
The other masters, called the "Furious Five" are voiced by Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogan, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan and David Cross; though you'd only be likely to recognize Jolie's voice as she is the only one given more than one or two lines. Predictably, they're not too happy with the title of Dragon Master going to Po. And Po, for his part, is earnest, clumsy and not at all convinced he is the Dragon Master either.
However, the martial arts master (Dustin Hoffman) does begin to train Po after a former student escapes prison and the Dragon Master is said to be the only one who can defeat him. Po's training consists mostly of using food as encouragement and his clumsy attempts are amusing and fun to watch.
For what it's worth, my kids really liked the movie. But I found I couldn't dredge up more than a perfunctory interest. Jack Black wasn't bad in the role of Po, but I wouldn't go so far as to say the role was "made" for him. There were a few times where his personality seeped into the dialogue, but nothing to the extent that Robin Williams took over the role of the genie in "Aladdin."
Mostly though, I was baffled at how little the celebrity talent that was hired to voice the film was used. Most of the dialogue was between Po and Shifu (Hoffman) with Jolie filling in most of the other gaps. For the life of me I can't figure out why the producers of the movie would pay to hire actors like Liu, Rogan and Chan and not use them hardly at all.
But my complaints are that of an adult viewer. I have been so spoiled by films like "The Incredibles" that I look for that kind of quality of storytelling whenever I take my kids to see a movie. "Kung Fu Panda" is bouncy and entertaining and delivers its fair share of chuckles. But the simplicity of the plot left me with kind of a "meh" feeling about it. I also didn't feel like this was a must-see-on-the-big-screen-movie. The visuals were pretty but not stunning and the fight scenes were more comedic than anything else. For what it is, "Kung Fu Panda" is cute, but not worth all the rave reviews I've seen-- in my oh-so-humble opinion.