Catching the Classics: Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu PandaSince 1998, I have been maintaining a list of movies that I wanted to see. Sometimes these are all-time classics that passed me by, sometimes they’re genre classics that interest me. The list grows regularly and is currently more than 1800 movies long. Fogs has gone through and hand-picked several classic films for me to “fast-track” and review here. This is one of those films.

Among the films that Fogs picked out as classics from my watchlist, he also included a handful of films that — while not necessarily the film-school shoo-ins — he felt were still worthy of inclusion due to being cultural touchstones, or popular films, or ones he simply felt I would enjoy. Kung Fu Panda was one of them, and while I recall him getting some gentle teasing from a few of his readers when he selected it as a Movie That Everyone Should See, I was happy to check it out. I’ve never stopped liking animation, and it looked like a fun one.

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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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Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 had a hell of a lot to live up to, in my opinion. To me, the first Kung Fu Panda was one of the greatest animated films of all time. It had great art, great voice acting, it was naturally funny, filled with great action sequences and delivered the requisite kids movie message without being ham-fisted about it. Boom. So could the sequel live up to that? The bar was pretty high.

The answer is… yes and no. But it earned my respect in a big way.

You see, Kung Fu Panda was essentially a fish out of water comedy. “Look! It’s a Kung Fu temple, but the Panda’s fat and clumsy! Thats so funny!” KFP2 can’t play that card. They can’t tell a bunch of fat Kung Fu jokes. Po is the Dragon Warrior now, he should be getting more respect. They can’t chock the movie full of Kung Fu newbie getting his ass kicked by Masters jokes. Po defeated Tai Lung singlehandedly. Obviously he knows something about Kung Fu. And they can’t dwell on Po driving Master Shifu crazy… Ok, well, he still drives Master Shifu crazy a little.

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