Movies That Everyone Should See: “Kung Fu Panda”

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Kung Fu Panda is the story of Po (voiced by Jack Black), a portly panda who lives in a village at the foot of a mountain, atop which is a legendary Kung Fu temple. Po dreams of being able to learn Kung Fu, and of joining the exploits of the temples famous martial arts warriors, The Furious Five.

But being a Panda, and thus… a large individual to put it kindly, Po seems destined to a common life serving the customers at his father’s noodle shop.

Little does he realize the greatness he’s destined for.

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As the movie opens, the temple is inaccessible to Po. Both literally and figuratively. Not only does admission to the temple as a student seem an improbable daydream for an overweight Panda, the temple itself seems unreachable. It’s located at the top of a mountain of stairs nearly impossible for him to climb.

The temple holds a festival to pronounce the selection of the recipient of the legendary “Dragon Scroll”, a scroll that conveys untold martial arts powers to reader and elevates them to the status of the “Dragon Warrior”. The Dragon Warrior is prophesied to be a legendary martial artist, and Po is excited to attend the festival. Yet his father insists he bring the noodle cart in order to sell noodles. The difficulties he has bringing the cart up the stairs cause him to be late, and Po finds the gates locked.

His place in his father’s noodle business, combined with his weight issues, are literally keeping him out of the temple.

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But fate intervenes. When a fireworks accident launches him over the wall, Po not only finds his way into the temple, he finds himself ordained “The Dragon Warrior”.

His greatest obstacles lie ahead, however.

The students of the temple, The Furious Five, each trained hard for years, hoping to earn the honor of being selected to receive the scroll. Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Snake (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Crane (David Cross) all resent Po. He’s untrained, he’s overweight, he’s uncoordinated. It was purely a fluke accident that put him in position to receive the scroll. Surely, any one of them would be more worthy.

In agreement with them is the Furious Five’s diminutive instructor, Master Shifu. Shifu, as voiced by Dustin Hoffman, is flummoxed by Po. How is he supposed to train an overweight, clumsy Panda to do Kung Fu? THIS is the legendary Dragon Warrior?

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Fortunately for Po, the temple is still under the guidance of the elderly tortoise, Master Oogway

It was Oogway who recognized the hand of fate when Po landed at his feet during the Dragon Warrior selection ceremony, and it is Oogway who encourages Po to continue on with his training in spite of his difficulties – that it was no accident the universe chose him as the Dragon Warrior. It is also Oogway that calms Shifu, and convinces him to keep searching for a way to reach Po.

But Oogway’s time has come. With his wisdom imparted to Po and Shifu, Oogway blows away with the wind.

They are on their own now.

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And the pressure is on. For while Shifu, the Furious Five and Po struggle with his selection as the Dragon Warrior, the notorious criminal Tai Lung has escaped from prison.

Tai Lung, voiced in incredibly bad assed fashion by Ian McShane, is a former member of the temple and a former student of Shifu’s. He was the most promising student at the temple, and an adoptive son to Shifu, until he was blinded by greed and ambition and attempted to steal the Dragon Scroll. Prevented from doing so by Master Oogway, he has spent the last twenty years shackled in a pit within a highly guarded prison.

Now he has escaped, and is on his way back to the prison to take the scroll he believes is rightfully his.

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Thankfully, Master Shifu has come to a realization. Po is not like the other students. And thus, he needs to train him differently. When Shifu realizes that Po is motivated via his appetite, he adjusts his training methods to incorporate food.

Thus begins one of the cleverest, most enjoyable training sequences of all time. Shifu vs. Po in a battle over a dumpling.

Using chopsticks like mini Bo staves, the two stab at and try to grab the dumpling, all the while blocking and countering the other’s moves. They have a fight over this dumpling that expands beyond the table and out into the surrounding area. When it’s over, Po is victorious, yet declares he is not hungry, and doesn’t eat the hard won dumpling.

Shifu declares his training complete.

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And not a moment too soon. For as they trained, Tai Lung was busy defeating all five of the Furious Five at the same time in an incredible fight scene on a rope bridge crossing a seemingly bottomless chasm.

So when he finally arrives at the temple and defeats Master Shifu, one can hardly blame Tai Lung for being dismissive when all that’s left between him and the Dragon Scroll is a winded, huffing panda.

What he doesn’t realize is that Po has already read the scroll, and now understands the contents. Thanks to his father explaining to him that there is no secret ingredient in the secret ingredient soup, Po realizes that the message of the Dragon Scroll is that he possesses all of the qualities of the Dragon Warrior already. He’s ready now to fulfill his destiny by unleashing his own style of Kung Fu – in a way that only HE can.

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SKADOOSH!

Kung Fu Panda was originally intended to be a spoof of Martial Arts movies. But the creators realized they loved those movies too much to make fun of them. So instead, they decided to make the movie a tribute movie, complete with the best action sequences they could make, and a big heart.

They succeeded.

This is a movie that imparts the lesson of being yourself and believing in yourself. It also portrays the martial arts extremely well, clearly demonstrating that the strongest martial artists aren’t necessarily those with the highest kicks or strongest punches, but those who have a clear mind, inner peace, confidence, and a style which suits their own particular strengths. As a former martial arts instructor, I can vouch for the validity of those lessons.

Kung Fu Panda is one of my favorite animated films of all time, and I would argue, one of the greatest. It’s gorgeously animated, hysterically voiced, and full of memorable, exciting action sequences. It balances humor and action perfectly, and contains far more than its share of the requisite animated movie lessons.

It’s definitely a “Movie That Everyone Should See”.

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37 thoughts on “Movies That Everyone Should See: “Kung Fu Panda”

  1. For some reason I never really got into this film when it first came out. I guess it’s because my boys didn’t much at first either. I’ve seen a ton of animated films over the last 5 years and I’ll agree that it is well done. I would also say that it should crack everyone’s top 20 animated films.
    I have not seen #2, so not sure if helped or hurt what was taken away from the original.

    • I thought #2 was good. http://fogsmoviereviews.com/2011/06/15/kung-fu-panda-2/

      Essentially, the second one was more of an action movie, and didnt have as much heart. This one had a great message to it, and thats one of the things I really connected with. The second one was a lot darker. A lot less funny, too.

      But it was still a worthy sequel. I’m excited for the third. It wont be one of those series like say, “Pirates of the Caribbean” where I own #1 on blu and not the others.

  2. Great choice for a movie everyone should see! I actually think this is the best movie from Dreamworks together with How to Train Your Dragon. I haven’t seen Kung Fu Panda yet tho.. Grr :|

  3. I like Kung Fu Panda but I never got the jaw-dropping love for it the majority of people have. There are some great moments and it does look beautiful, but I just didn’t *feel* it. You know? I’m just odd!

  4. It is gorgeously animated, that’s for sure. The lesson of believing in your self is ever-present, but there is also a great lesson about how to motivate others as well.

    • Why… yes there is. LOL. Yeah, definitely.

      I love Sifu, he’s a great character. And his journey is important here too. He comes to realize a lot about himself and how he pressured Tai Lung for example. And of course, how he changes his own techniques to best benefit Po.

      Nice point, Ian.

  5. I saw this in the theater with my 12 year old. Neither one if us were huge fans. It wasn’t a bad movie, but nothing that left us waiting for the sequel either. I found it simple and predictable…. Of couse I am a 41 year old commenting on a cartoon……I mean animated film….. I guess I should be one up on the average kid when it comes to that ;)
    If i am to be totally honest, the whole dumpling/chopsticks scene aggravated me. I am sure it was an allusion to Miagi and the fly…. For the benefit of us old timers…..but I felt like, come up with something I haven’t seen.
    My daughter said she thought it would be funnier and maybe more action would have been cool.
    Again not a terrible movie, but not a favorite of our either.

    • I wouldn’t say you should seek it out again… But if you cross paths with it, give it another chance. Simple isn’t always bad. Between the action and the lessons and the animation, this is a really good one. You may find u like it better once you give it a second look.

  6. Dig it. Like you say, it’s the sort of “spoof” that exists as a bona fide kung-fu flick, so it’s funny and pokes fun at the genre but in doing so shows off a deep love for martial arts’ cinema. I think they picked a great cast for the voice roles, for sure, which is surprising to me because several of them haven’t been really all that great at this point in their careers (I’m looking at you Jack Black), and the fights are pretty legit too.

  7. Fogs, I don’t know what kind of crack you’ve been smoking during that snowstorm, but Kung Fu Panda is a movie everyone should see? I saw this and I didn’t hate it, but there’s no way this is a movie every person should watch before they die. It’s yet another CGI-animated, celebrity-voiced, pop-culture-referencing movie-by-committee. Nobody should lose any sleep over missing this one. There are far better movies out there (including far better animated movies) which people should try to see first. Fogs, that must be some good crack. Send some my way when you get a chance.

    • Ah, Brik. We love ya. You’re like the Oscar the Grouch of FMR!

      No Crack involved (I was always more of a Hallucinogen man, myself).

      All major animated movies are celebrity voiced, and most animated movies nowadays are CGI. I think there are a LOT of Animated Movies that “Everyone Should See” and I’ll put more up as we go along… There’s no particular order here.

      That said, I stand by my crackpipe guns and stay with my claim that this is a great one. Everyone should see it.

  8. I really enjoyed Kung Fu Panda! The Furious Five are great!

    I didn’t enjoy the sequel as much, but that is often the curse of great movies! This def is one everyone should watch! Nice pick!

  9. I post on behalf of Sula, age 5. “Kung Fu panda is great. Its my favorite” “why is it your favorite?” “Because it has Kung Fu. And a panda”. And mommy loves it because its hilarious, and beautiful so its easy to watch. And it has so many powerful lessons: about perserverence, about not letting physical appearance dictate who you are, about living your dream, about guts and loyalty and hard work. And as was previously mentioned, about being able to find a way to impart important lessons in a way your student can understand and use, something parents need to be reminded of. And finally because the panda reminds me spool much of somebody else I know…I could watch this movie again and again. EVERYONE should see it.

    • To Sula: It also has a Tiger!

      To Deb: Your check is in the mail.

      All kidding aside though, yeah, I love this movie bigtime, too. Great points all the way through your comments there.

      But wait, I just reread your comment. You’re not comparing ME to Po are you? Just because I’m a portly black belt are you? LOL…

      • I may not know the “Ska-Doosh”, but I can show you some Chin Na finger locks and stuff that would pretty much shock you.

        Lots of joints in the fingers.

        Joints are good for causing pain.

  10. Netflix sent this around this weekend (I moved it up since reading this review) and the Wife and I sat down to watch it this Saturday night. Not bad at all. Some of it is down right beautiful. Very entertaining and well made, but in no way was it elevated to the rarefied airs of a “Movie The Everyone Should See”. Still it was very enjoyable through out. I especially liked the dream scene at the start which reminded me strongly of the brilliant cartoon series “Samurai Jack”. The acting was top notch throughout, although I thought that David Cross’ voice as Crane really didn’t work at all, but he was definitely in the minority. Jack Black did a very good job and Dustin Hoffman was great, and Ian McShane was phenomenal, although I kept expecting him to call the Rhino guards ‘C*ck$uck3rs’. It was a little distracting. lol.
    The Dreamworks animation was amazing throughout, with one specific exception: the eyes of most of the main characters were curiously flat.
    So all in all, I’m very happy to have seen it, but I dont feel like I needed to see it.

    • It’s all good. Glad you enjoyed it at least. I’ve got a decent major league batting average here on this one in terms of support, so I’m cool with it. ;)

      I loved me some Samurai Jack, too. And of course, Deadwood died too soon…

      HA!

      And I’m smiling right now cause I’m thinking – I dont want to be presumptious – but I bet I redeem the “Rareified airs” with tomorrow’s MTESS Gelfster. My money is that you and Hobbes start dancin old buddy. :D

  11. LOL you weren’t kidding with the mixed responses. This full is so full of heart, ridiculously funny, and has great action scenes. It also has a beautiful message to boot. The animation is breathtaking as well. The voice acting is also topnotch with the actors all bringing their respective personalities to life and seem to be having fun doing it. I also really love the scenes with Po and his ‘father’ LOL. CLASSIC!

    • My new policy should be to only direct supporters of films to old MTESSs LOL

      No haters allowed.

      I’M definitely of the mindset that this is one of the greatest animated films ever. I’m completely in love with it. So… seeing as it’s my blog, MTESS it is. Glad you added your voice to the support side though Blain, I’m always happy when people have my back on things! :D

  12. Where to start with KFP? This movie has serious legs! I must have seen it at least 20 times in the past 12 months! and that is no exaggeration, I have a 2 1/2 year old boy who is a complete film junkie ( like his dad) and this was one of his fav movies about 6 months ago, it was on nearly every other day. Dreamworks must be applauded for producing some decent animation, that sets itself aside from Pixar, and does something different.
    The opening title/ dream sequence has a Samurai Jack feel to it,and is really dynamic! I’m a Graphic Designer, so when it got my juices flowing, I knew I was onto something special!
    Kung Fu Panda, is funny & irreverent and it appeals to kids of all ages, so adults can enjoy it just as much as the kids, plus there’s the added bonus of no “Disney-esque Death sequence” a la Bambi/Lion King, (which I can’t watch anymore, Walt was an evil bastard, wasn’t he?! ) Although the Master Oogway death sequence is handled with a Zen like grace and is damn beautiful, it’s never over the top and in your face the way Disney sometimes is.
    As for the storyline, what’s not to like? Karate Kid & Rocky, rolled into one! it’s just a rollicking ride, doesn’t preach, or lay on the message thick, it just delivers a fun ride with some great animation, great voices, Jack Black is superb as Po, as is Dustin Hoffman as master shi-fu.
    If you like Kung Fu Panda, How to train your Dragon, is another good offering from Dreamworks!

    • There you go Nik!! Nik has my back on this one People! :D

      I agree wholeheartedly. Right down to the Samurai Jack reference (I loved that show too).

      I’m glad you point to the Master Oogway final scene, it’s awesome. “Zen like grace” is a really good description for it. I love Oogway, he’s awesome.

      You’re right about it not being preachy, but it definitely does have it’s share of messages for kids to take away from it.

      I love this one. Thanks for your support Nik. This was one of the more contentious candidates here. :D

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