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iApprove: Kung Fu Panda.

January 20, 2009

I admit, after watching Shark Tale I thought Dreamworks had completely lost their ability to produce good movies.  Let’s face it, that movie sucked. It was so weighted down under its own pop culture references it could hardly breathe.

Kung Fu Panda was a breath of fresh air.

The movie abandons the slew of pop culture in favor of a reasonably believable recreation of legendary China (much better than the real China and full of cute animals).  Rather than an obnoxiously ambitious and idiotic hero, we have Po, a dense and really not-that-ambitious panda.  When a string of accidents (or not-accidents, as the case may be) causes him to be declared the legendary Dragon Warrior, he finds himself living his lifelong dream of training in the art of Kung Fu – which really isn’t everything he thought it would be.

The martial arts in this movie are awesome.  They are very carefully reconstructed from actual Kung Fu moves (with one or two exceptions), and even more epic on account of the gravity-defying properties of cartoon characters.  The plot is formula, but the characters hold it up decently.  The gags, many of which involve deconstructing common tropes of the plot, are frequently hilarious.  I lol’d a lot.

The taxonomy also provides some interesting bonuses to those who are paying attention.  Most of the animals are easily recognizable on some basic level but a couple of them – the red panda and the snow leopard – might elude younger audiences.  This was a fun bonus for our audience, which includes a couple of Zoo Tycoon fans.

There have been better movies.  There have been more intellectually stimulating movies.  There have probably been more engaging, thrilling martial-arts movies.  But for a two-hour action-filled lulzfest, Kung Fu Panda does a pretty good job.

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