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Kung Fu Panda

Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, etc, etc.

(They all do fine but you won't recognise half of them until the credits. It's like the makers rounded up every famous name they could, in an effort to maximise their Google hits. Was it really necessary?)

Rated: PG.

Story: It's the classic tale of an over-weight panda overcoming adversity to learn Kung Fu in an attempt to save his village from an evil snow leopard and discover his inner butt-kicking Dragon Warrior.

Comments: Contrary to expectations, this isn't awful or full of fart gags. Admittedly, most of the laughs stem from a fat panda falling over but, in a sea of indistinguishable computer-animated movies, sometimes you have to find amusement where you can...

Kung Fu Panda is actually one of the better CGI films I've seen in a while. It's fast-paced and avoids the dull over-indulgence of efforts like Cars and Ratatouille. More than that, it takes advantage of the whole animated, cuddly animal concept. It features a host of outlandish and physically impossible feats and fights. Done with human beings (animated or otherwise) it would look stupid but because it's all snakes and tigers and, er, pandas, suspension of disbelief is much easier. It's possible to sit back and enjoy the spectacle without sniggering at the daftness.

The only real disappointment is the somewhat confused message. It appears to be, 'You don't need to be special to be special.' Except the story is all about a panda who can learn Kung Fu in an afternoon - that's pretty special whatever way you look at it. Meanwhile, the characters who've put the effort in and trained all their lives to make themselves special get smacked into the dirt. Eh?

Ho well, the plot moves along quickly enough to plaster over the cracks. For a movie you feel probably stemmed from a title brain-storming session, it's pretty entertaining.

Writer 1: Dare-devil Dinosaur?
Producer: Too generic.
Writer 2: Rodeo Ostrich?
Producer: Too niche.
Writer 1: Karate Kid?
Producer: Been done.
Writer 2: Not with goats.
Producer: Forget it.
Writer 1: Parachute Elephant?
Producer: Pardon?
Writer 2: Judo Space Monkey?
Producer: Too obvious.
Writer 1: Kung Fu Panda?
Producer: Yes! Go make it! Do you think we can get Jackie Chan involved?

Conclusion: If the kids decide to watch this every day for a month when it comes out on DVD, I can live with that.

Explosions: Some comic firework accidents.
Infeasible displays of acrobatics: Countless.
Wise old turtles: One.
Points made using peach metaphors: Several.
Noodles: Plenty.

Rating: 4/5.

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