Po (Black) is a panda living in the Valley of Peace who emulates and dreams of being part of the Furious Five, the local kung fu masters and heroes that are worshipped like the New Kids on the Block at the height of their fame.
Since Shallow Hal, his first starring vehicle seven years ago, Jack Black has chosen some of the lowest quality and most repetitive roles available to keep himself working and in the public eye. Not that it hasn’t been fun at times. After all, the man is extremely talented and always fun to watch on screen. His latest film, one of two out this summer, is Kung Fu Panda, an animated film from DreamWorks aimed at children but entertaining enough for any age group.
Po (Black) is a panda living in the Valley of Peace who emulates and dreams of being part of the Furious Five, the local kung fu masters and heroes that are worshipped like the New Kids on the Block at the height of their fame. Unfortunately, Po is on the heavy side and not very coordinated. His father hopes for Po to take over his noodle shop one day so he can pass on the secret ingredient to his Secret Ingredient Soup (there are several word repetition puns in the movie that the older audience members will appreciate).
Po’s life changes for the better when he accidentally crashes the ceremony at which Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) chooses the Dragon Warrior who will protect the Valley from the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane). Po is accidentally selected as the Dragon Warrior and must take on the responsibility of protecting the citizens of the Valley. This comes as a great disappointment to the Furious Five and their master, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) who is charged with somehow training Po.
The movie is just all around fun. The animation is terrific and has some anime influences thrown in for a change of pace. Black is hilarious and carries the movie. The sheer diversity of his delivery and timing reminds the viewer of the talent we’ve been missing in mundane movies such as Nacho Libre and The Holiday. Here, however, he is back in full force and has never been awesomer (you’ll get it after you watch the movie).
The other voice talent comes from some of Hollywood’s biggest names: Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Michael Clarke Duncan and others. All of them are wonderful in their roles, especially Hoffman who adds balances to Black’s manic performance.
The story is encouraging for kids who think that anything should stop them from attaining their dreams. The dialogue is clean, no inappropriate innuendos, yet still entertaining for everyone. Definitely take the kids to see Kung Fu Panda, and if you don’t have kids, it’s a great alternative to the other summer fare coming our way.| Matthew F. Newlin