VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE

A must read, if you don't already know ...








Written by Funn Lim





"This movie has it all"






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SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS


Released in
2008

Produced by
Dreamworks

Genre
Animation - 3D

Cast-Character
Jack Black ... Po (voice)
Dustin Hoffman ... Shifu (voice)
Angelina Jolie ... Tigress (voice)
Ian McShane ... Tai Lung (voice)
Jackie Chan ... Monkey (voice)
Seth Rogen ... Mantis (voice)
Lucy Liu ... Viper (voice)
David Cross ... Crane (voice)
Randall Duk Kim ... Oogway (voice)
James Hong ... Mr. Ping (voice)
Dan Fogler ... Zeng (voice)
Michael Clarke Duncan ... Commander Vachir (voice)

IMPORTANT NOTICE
Malaysian audiences be very careful when buying the tickets because there is a Cantonese version. Oh come on, nothing beats the original. So watch the English version. I beg you!

Plot
Po, a panda is the son of Mr Ping, a noodle seller (he is a geese, don't ask). Whilst his father has express his desire for Po to takeover the noodle shop one day, Po has always dreamed of bigger and almost impossible dreams of becoming a kung fu hero. He dreams, eat, talks and even worships the famous Furious Five, who are the town's kung fu expert, trained by the much respected Master Shifu. They all live on top of the mountain in an idyllic settings surrounded by nature that Po wishes he could take part in. But he is the unlikeliest candidate as a kung fu expert since he is big, clumsy and overweight.

Meanwhile Master Shifu who is the sifu of the Furious Five which consists of Tigress, Monkey, Viper, Praying Mantis and Crane has suffered the most devastating betrayal in his career as a sifu. He took in a snow leopard named Tai Lung, trained the gifted child who grew up to be a cruel kung fu expert. Bent on getting the legendary Dragon's Scroll high up the ceiling of the monastery, where it is foretold that one day a Dragon Warrior will be chosen to open the scroll and learn the highest form of kung fu from the scroll. Not even Master Shifu has seen the scroll and it has been there since 1000 years ago when Master Shifu's own sifu, the old Master Oogway started this kung fu monastery. Unwilling to kill Tai Lung whom he sees as his own son, Master Shifu was defeated by Tai Lung but Master Oogway successfully stopped the onslaught and from thereon Tai Lung was imprisoned several layers deep into earth guarded by 1000 rhino guards with state of the art weapons. What they didn't expect was Tai Lung's cunningness in his escape from the prison and he is now on his way back to his sifu to take the dragon scroll at all cost. Therefore the finding of the Dragon Warrior became even more urgent.

A competition was held between the Furious Five and Po wanted to join the crowds to see the new Dragon Warrior. After much hilarious tries trying to get into the monastery which was locked, he sat himself on a chair tied with fireworks and off into the sky he went and dramatically amidst those fireworks he fell right in front of Master Oogway and Tigress standing behind him. Much to his groggy surprise, Master Oogway chose him. Immediately celebrations ensued and Po became the Dragon Warrior. The Furious Five, especially Tigress who have been trained for this moment her entire life was not pleased, but none was as furious as Master Shifu himself who felt Po was a mockery to the status of the Dragon Warrior. He was supposed to train him, and train him he did with the aim to make it so difficult for Po, that Po will have to quit and a new Dragon Warrior will be chosen.

Po stumbled clumsily through his practice but the Furious Five, however much they laughed at him, except for Tigress, all began to warm to his sincerity in wanting to learn. But Master Shifu has other plans and just as Po was about to quit, Master Oogway parted some wise wisdom to him and persuaded him to stay. Meanwhile Master Shifu was out of his wits trying to make Po quit when Master Oogway under the falling leaves of the peach tree imparted his final advice to his student and then became one with the wind as he became an immortal and floated to I suppose heaven. Master Shifu was now truly alone and after some thoughts, he trusts his sifu's wisdom and was now keen on training Po. But Po panicked when he found out about Tai Lung on his way to the village at that moment and when Po wanted to run, it was Master Shifu who persuaded him others. Tigress was very disappointed with Master Shifu and set out to find Tai Lung and she was joined by the other Furious Five.

Meanwhile Master Shifu was trying to find ways to train Po when he discovered Po became exceptionally agile when Po tried to get to Monkey's cookie jar at the top of the shelf. Master Shifu saw potential in Po and from thereon used food to train Po to hilarious results. At the end Po became very agile and was able to execute some moves that even stunned Master Shifu who was very satisfied with the results. But he was a long way to defeating Tai Lung.

Meanwhile the Furious Five found Tai Lung and a spectacular battle began at the long and dangerous bridge which ended with all 5 being thrown back to Master Shifu's feet, all stunted by Tai Lung "dim yuet" skills. Thinking it was time, Master Shifu took down the dragon scroll and asked Po to open it which he did but inside the scroll, there was nothing. It was only a blank scroll. Master Shifu feared Po did not have the skills to defeat or even stop Tai Lung since the scroll revealed no wisdom. Master Shifu ordered the evacuation of the entire village and told the Furious Five and Po to run whilst he alone will try to stop Tai Lung. Reluctantly they ran.

Tai Lung arrived and demanded to see the scroll. When he found out the scroll was taken down, Tai Lung and Master Shifu engaged in a battle but Master Shifu was no match to Tai Lung. When Tai Lung was about to kill Master Shifu, Po arrives, huffing and puffing from running up the stairs. Tai Lung laughed at the sight of the so called Dragon Warrior and thought defeating Po was easy. What he didn't expect was the agility and earnestness of Po who battled him from the top of the mountain down to the village when Po sucessfully defeated Tai Lung and as implied, killed Tai Lung using Master Shifu's infamous kung fu style that not even Tai Lung has learned.

The village rejoiced but Po only concern was Master Shifu and he rushed to see Master Shifu who was finally at peace with himself because all his life he lived with the guilt he had created a monster in Tai Lung. Po finally became the warrior he has always dreamed of and the village thereafter lived in peace.

The end.

Comments
I can't imagine for the life of me loving an animation by Dreamworks. From the graphics to the story and the execution of the story, Kung Fu Panda is as refreshing as any Pixar new flicks and I can say even rivals some of Pixar's best. What I hated about Shrek and all of Dreamworks products previously were not present in Kung Fu Panda. What this one had was heart and soul. This animation successfully created many characters that many could relate to and even learn to love. There was no wise cracks, no fart jokes or even the usual boring pop culture references. There were some fat jokes but that turned into Po's advantage and of course it has one of now most popular pop reference that is kung fu but even that was done tastefully. Not much parody in here but what you have is a homage to the many kung fu movies we have seen over the years, one that Kung Fu Hustle did several years ago. In everyway this animation reminds me a lot of Kung Fu Hustle; from an insignificant nobody who in the process became a significant somebody. I love stories about the underdog and Dreamworks wisely decided to stop all those nonsensical whatever they did for their previous creations and just let the story speak for itself.

And what a story! It is simple, sometimes some plot holes but other than those minor grouses, it has a fool proof story that young and old alike could enjoy at various levels. I love the characters Po, Master Shifu and especially Master Oogway. Whilst Angeline Jolie and the other Furious Four such as Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu were wasted and anybody could have voiced them, this animation would not have so much fun if it had not been the really funny Jack Black. Surprisingly he didn't sound cocky or even confident in here as he always was and he gave Po a certain vulnerability and yet sincerity that just gets to me big time, in a good way. His performance was top notch and I just love the fact that he didn't go overboard. He controlled himself and was funny when he should be funny, tender when he should be tender and at all times he made Po a believable good guy who just worships his heroes and found his own way to become one.

Then there was Dustin Hoffman, probably the biggest surprise of this animation. I would never have thought he could do voice overs since he tend to mumble but here he spoke with a clear voice, with a voice that is at times wise, at times tender and sometimes quite stern. His Master Shifu is my most favourite character in this animation other than Master Oogway. He imparted character and personality to his alter ego the red panda. Whilst he may look cute, Dustin Hoffman's great performance gave Master Shifu a very "don't stand near me" stance.

I also love Master Oogway. The actor is Randall Duk Kim and after some googling, I realised he was the keymaker, key keeper, whatever, that guy on the motorcycle with Trinity in Matrix II!! Choosing a tortoise to be a zen like taichi master is pure brilliance. From his first appearance to his last, Master Oogway was zen all the way, calm, cool, wise and all knowing. The actor who voiced this character exuded all these qualities and is a sharp contrast from a tense and serious Master Shifu or the bumbling Po.

Ian McShane did an excellent job voicing the arrogant and very angry Tai Lung. Why the villain must be British I have no idea but his voice, growling and all reminded me so much of Jeremy Iron's Scar in Lion King.

Everybody else did well within their own character although except for the few exceptions as mentioned above as well as Po's father, Mr Ping voiced by James Hong, the actors were not given much time to develop their characters. But then the focus is on Po and Master Shifu and in that case this animation succeeds in fleshing out to the fullest these two main characters.

Other aspect to marvel is of course the animation. I love the dream sequence of Po which was drawn like those Chinese animation of the past and then the present time was still quite Asian influenced. The scenery, the water, etc were rendered beautifully. For a moment I thought they were hand drawn but then realised they were actually computer generated like all of their other animation. If the story fails to impress you, surely the graphics will impress you to no end. The colours are bright and colourful, unlikes the dull Shark Tale or the green themed Shrek or even the one colour tone Antz. Somehow it seems more brighter, more colourful and the colour are more pleasing to the eyes. Fantastic work here.

But the best had to be the kung fu sequence itself. Whilst Jackie Chan and Jet Li moves are beginning to bore me, in this animation the kung fu is reminiscent of all those Jing Yong series we grew up on. I am sure the directors didn't know Jing Yong and drew their references from Kung Fu Hustle and the many movies that inspired Kung Fu Hustle itself but I can't help but notice some seems more like those Wuxia styles. Like the fighting for the dumplings using chopsticks between Po and Master Shifu. I love these sequences, very beautiful rendered and some heart stopping action, especially that battle between Furious Five and Tai Lung at the bridge. But other small moments like how Master Shifu took down the dragon scroll or how Master Oogway with one movement defeated Tai Lung were just beautiful and gracefully executed. The fight between Tai Lung and Po was really funny, more like clumsy fighting than real fighting but you know I have a theory which the writer did not really specify.

Tai Lung is a hard snow leopard who kicks and punches his way through. The directors said they contrasted this to Po's flabby self since Tai Lung is all muscle and Po is all fat. How Tai Lung was defeated by Po was Po flexibility because of his fats. How Master Oogway is a taichi master, quite obvious with his slow but powerful movements. This wasn't specified but I feel when Po was fighting Tai Lung, he was using the principles of Tai Chi or rather fluidity of the body. Tai Lung is hard but Po is soft. He fights like how the river flows. So Po became a Taichi master! Of course the movie didn't specify this but I made my conclusions at the style I saw. It is the only way to explain how Tai Lung lost when he was the expert. Also never undermine your enemy I suppose.

Then there was the hilarious name. Not Tigress or Mantis or such. No big deal. It took me a while to recognise Master Oogway. Oogway is a tortoise and that is the name in Cantonese! I thought wow brilliant name! Then there was Chogarm prison and I was thinking what? And after just a moment I realised Cho-gam! In the prison in cantonese and hence Chogarm prison! Now that is the king of whatever pop culture reference that I like to see more, not a parody of snow white or singing to the bird until its head explodes like in Shrek which I hated.

If this is the kind of quality animation Dreamworks intend to create in future, I will surely become its fan. Never a moment from the beginning till the end did I stop laughing. The only scenes I didn't laugh was the very tense fighting scene and the relationship between Master Shifu and Tai Lung. Notice how expressive the red panda's eyes was. This movie has it all. Humour, tension, action, great scenery, witty script and great acting by those who matters. If you loved Kung Fu Hustle I can see no reason why you won't love this. Don't be put off by the idea of a panda doing kung fu or a tortoise or praying mantis or such. They're representative of the characters. Replace them with human beings and the story would be as funny and as touching and suspenseful as this animation was. And it has a great lesson in it. What you take home with you after the viewing of this movie is up to you but to me, it is dare to dream big because like Po, with some talent, support and hard work, he achieved what he dreamt all his life. Even if he was a big fat panda.

My Most favourite scene
The fighting for dumplings with chopsticks scene between Po and Master Shifu

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Verdict
Excellent animation, do not miss this. For all the dissenters who feel this is the same old stuff, clearly you have never seen Dreamworks' other works. I have never seen an interpretation of such Asian-ness in an animation made and voiced predominantly by westerners. I feel it was respectfully done and yet oh so witty and the end credits was beautiful where the characters' names are in Chinese instead of English. Deserving of a big screen treatment and a serious contender for Oscar next year although I am still eagerly awaiting Pixar's next offering. As for Dreamworks this may be one of those rare cases because in the cinema I saw Madagascar 2. So whatever big dreams I have for Dreamworks for quality animation, I am sorry to say those dreams were a bit too early. A pity. But for Kung Fu Panda, it is a pure joy to have watched it. Go see it now!!

P/S
There is one final scene said to be touching and poignant at the end of the credits. Didn't know so didn't stay for it. Must watch it on DVD. So do stay back even if you're last man standing and 2 aunties are waiting to vacuum the cinema.

Some pictures
The actors and their characters
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Seth Rogan as Mantis

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Jackie Chan as Monkey

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Lucy Liu as Viper

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Jack Black as Po, the Panda

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Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu (red panda)

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David Cross as Crane

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Angelina Jolie as Tigress

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Randall Duk Kim as Master Oogway

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Ian McShane as Tai Lung the snow leopard

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James Hong as Mr Ping (a goose? geese?)

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Michael Clark Duncan (remember Green Mile?) as Commander Vachir, a Rhino.











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