INCLUDE_DATA

KUNG FU PANDA (2008) **** Film review by COOP

Posted on June 11th, 2008
Posted on June 11th, 2008

I love martial arts films. Doesn’t matter if you do, you’ll still like this one. It’s got fuzzy animals talking. Jack Black plays a panda and Angelina Jolie, a tiger. Tigress, rather.

I don’t have to convince most of you to see this one. If you have kids, you’re already locked in. It’s an animated film, released in the summer. You can’t avoid it. Here’s the good news: You can stomach this one. It’s way better than “Madagascar.” Dreamworks has equaled the quality of a Pixar animated film. They’ve surpassed the ugly animation of “Sinbad” and “Antz” and made a super high-quality animated film to give “Wall*E” a run for its money this summer.

I didn’t get to go to the premiere on this one. I did, however, get to go to the premiere after-party. My good buddy, David Rosenbaum, “production coordinated” the film. Basically, he helped keep things organized, kept the voice-over actors saying their lines and such. He handed me a glossy ticket that rocketed us right through the front doors. I stopped to shake the hand of some short, balding, yet physically-fit man with glasses standing in the entryway with his wife. He thanked me and mentioned that he didn’t make the premiere because of a Lakers’ game he couldn’t miss. I asked Dave if that was who I thought it was. Dave confirmed my suspicions. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the man who’s 1/3 of Dreamworks, the K in SKG (Spielberg, Katzenberg, Geffen), shook my hand and thanked me for working on his film. Here’s why he wouldn’t know if I hadn’t…

Around 1,300 people showed up for the party. We took over the entire banquet room, dance hall room, lobby and pool area. This is how many people it takes to make an animated movie of this caliber and Dreamworks has to throw a 250 K+ party to celebrate the premiere. Wow. Free food (quality, mind you), a band in the dance room, “Kung Fu Panda” decorations everywhere AND free cocktails. Premium stuff. Katzenberg doesn’t mess around.

I talked to many employees about the film at the party and they gave a general consensus about what I would experience myself later. They asked me, “What did you do on the film?” After clearing up the confusion of why I was there, I asked them what they thought of the finished product. Keep in mind, these are jaded Hollywood folk. I’ve talked to many of these working-class, animation jockeys only to hear them whine and moan about the tedious, potty-joke-filled cartoon they’ve been working on. Instead I heard…

“I loved it.”
“Best animated film I’ve worked on.”
“Best animated film I’ve worked on AND seen.”
“This will win an Oscar” (for best animated film, I presumed).”

After hearing this, I wished I had seen the film with them so I could talk to these creators about scenes and details. Oh, I met one of the two directors of the film. John Stevenson, an English chap, chatted me up for a couple of minutes. I congratulated him on his film and he thanked me. Dave chewed the fat with him about the production and I stood and listened. Stevenson had a serene expression on his face. Not one of triumph, but of relief. I suppose a project that lasts five years (as most animated projects do) can wear you out. No wonder everyone looks exhausted, yet complacent. A feeling of pride for a job well done and a nice soirée and paycheck to show for it. Anyone can relate to that.

I eventually saw the film on opening weekend. Here’s the review…

Po (voice of Jack Black), a lazy panda has dreams of Kung Fu greatness. Too bad he’s an overweight, clumsy oaf, destined to inherit his duck (???) father’s noodle business. While trying to catch a glimpse of a tournament to declare a “Dragon Warrior” champion, Po stumbles into favor with supreme Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) who declares him the Dragon Warrior, much to the bafflement of the “Furious Five:” Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogan), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and their master, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). I later learned the character of Shifu is actually a tiny red panda. I thought he might be a meerkat, or some type of fat weasel, but then I realized there are no meerkats in China and that’d be silly. Po must learn Kung Fu skills fast or die at the hand of the vengeful tiger, Ti Lung (Ian McShane). Ti Lung escaped from prison with the mission of defeating the Dragon Warrior to retrieve the “Dragon Scroll” which holds infinite power, or something like that.

One of the more interesting things I learned is how the crew of “Kung Fu Panda” watched Kung Fu films every day at lunch in the commissary to inspire them. It paid off. One of the more creative points in the film is how terrific and authentic the animated characters look pulling off their skills. I saw nods to films I haven’t seen in years, yet the creators nailed the look, the feel and the effects of Kung Fu Cinema.

As for the characters, the animators observed the facial expressions and movements of the live actors (mostly from other films) to translate those actions to the characters. Po looks and acts like Jack Black. Tigress squints like Angelina… and so on. Jackie Chan says about two lines total. He probably got paid a fortune for that. Wasted talent.

Well done, Dreamworks. Far better animation effort than I’ve ever seen from you guys. Quality work all around, except when the final fight becomes “Clumsy Fu” rather than Kung Fu. Give the main character some dignity, will ya? Not as perfect as Pixar’s “The Incredibles,” but you’re almost there. Also, kudos for the animators who pulled off the stylistic, dream-sequence introduction. It reminded me of the cartoon, “Samurai Jack,” only 100% more visually stunning. Maybe do an animated film in that style. I’ll pay top dollar for that.

4 stars out of 5

-Coop

No Comments •

Comments

Search
Search Form
Trailer for the award-winning short PRISMA…


A corporate promotional VHS tape from 1984 conceals a brain-altering signal which is said to grant increased health, longevity and psychic powers to those who watch it. View at your own risk...

WINNER: SPECIAL JURY PRIZE, 2017 Oxford Film Festival

WINNER: BEST EXPERIMENTAL FILM, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

SEMI-FINALIST: 2017 NanoCon International Science-Fiction Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST ANIMATION, 2017 End of Days Film Festival

NOMINEE: BEST GRAPHICS, 2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2017 Nightmares Film Festival
2017 A Night of Horror Film Festival
2017 H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival
2017 Oxford Film Festival
2017 Crossroads Film Festival
2017 Clarksdale Film Festival
2017 Twisted Dreams Film Festival
2017 Tupelo Film Festival
2017 NanoCon International Sci-Fi Film Festival
2017 FantaSci Short Film Festival
2017 End of Days Film Festival
2017 Grenada Afterglow Film Festival
2017 Shiver International Film Festival
2017 Southern States Indie FanFilmFest

Trailer for the lost short GOD MAKER…


Northern Mississippi 1932:
In a cabin in the woods, a blind blues guitarist will discover his destiny from a lovesick goddess who seeks to corrupt his soul.

GOD MAKER remains unfinished and in limbo for now, but the trailer expresses the mood and imagery intended for the project...

Coop’s award-winning 48 hour short film trailer for REGRESS…


Told in reverse, this experimental made-in-48-hours film begins with a shocking murder then backtracks (like a viewer rewinding a VHS tape) to reveal the chilling origins of this tragedy.

WINNER: BEST SHORT FILM at the 2013 Clarksdale Film Festival...
NOMINATED: BEST DIRECTING by the 2012 48hr. Guerrilla Film Challenge (international contest)...
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Crossroads Film Festival

Watch Coop’s award-winning short film THE BEST DAY…


WINNER: 2012 MAGNOLIA FILM FESTIVAL "Best Homegrown Film"
WINNER: 2012 SEATTLE TRUE INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL "Best Scream"

OFFICIAL SELECTION:
2012 OXFORD FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CLARKSDALE FILM FESTIVAL
2012 CROSSROADS FILM FESTIVAL
2012 NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI FILM FESTIVAL
2012 ATLANTA INDIE HORROR FILM FESTIVAL
2012 OTHERFEST
2012 MISSISSIPPI INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
2012 SUN AND SAND FILM FESTIVAL

Morgan Freeman asks Coop a question at THE BEST DAY premiere! Video below…


My short film THE BEST DAY premiered in October 2011 at the Delta Cinema in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Little did I know I had a special guest in the audience who was about to ask me a question during the Q&A. Yep, I got a little flustered when I saw who it was.

The Small Town Critic’s SCREENWRITING SERVICES
Follow Coop on Twitter...
    follow me on twitter
    Follow smalltowncritic on Twitter
    Archives
    Subscribe via Email!

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    Subscribe via RSS feed!