9 June 2008 | da_flipboy
Finally, Dreamworks Animation has a classic.
After various 3D animated movies ranging from lacklustre "star" movies ("Madagascar"), boring tripe ("Shark Tale", "Bee Movie"), and over-rated, over-hyped overkill ("Shrek"), Dreamworks can finally be proud of a truly great film. (Sidebar: I actually enjoyed "Flushed Away" and "Over The Hedge".) First, the bad. If I could complain about ANYTHING it may be a few of the voices. Besides Po, Shifu and Oogway, the rest of the cast seemed pretty 'phoned-in'. Thankfully, those characters are pretty inconsequential so they're not really missed.
Now the good... or rather great. While classic kung fu movies are poked fun at, Kung Fu Panda does an excellent job of treating the genre with great respect in a movie geared towards kids. And while it IS kid friendly, it is not dumbed down to the point where it's childish. All the classic elements of those great kung fu flicks are there, while still keeping it pleasantly G-rated.
Let me get this out of the way: this movie has some of the greatest 3D animated fight scenes. Ever. What elevates them from good to great is that while I expected the unbelievable, gravity-defying stunts that are REQUIRED of a good kung fu movie, there is an amazing amount of 'realism' to the physics in this movie. Just watch the jailbreak and you'll understand.
Speaking of animation, the cinematography, character design and backgrounds are all done very, very well. Whether it's flying through the air alongside a leaping character, the painting-like backgrounds, or the wonderful opening sequence (reminiscent of Samurai Jack), they're all beautiful. Snap zooms, slow-motion, and flying cameras are also used with great skill to further the experience.
Even the music and sound is outstanding. Asian drums rumble in the background of intense fights... stones shatter and crumble away... fight sequences rise and fall with each of the music cues, or is that the other way around? Beautiful.
What helps make this a new classic in my eyes is what it doesn't have. There are no Matrix, Spiderman, or other dated references. There are no inside jokes related to the voice actors. There isn't even any double entendre or unnecessary crude humour. Much like "Finding Nemo" or "Monsters Inc", there's just plenty of pop-culture-free goodness that is terribly entertaining.
The last great part of this movie is often the most overlooked part of a good family film... heart. This movie has oodles of it. Other movies have tried to have a lesson in the end like 'be yourself' ("Shrek"), or 'the value of friends' ("Madagascar"), or... 'be yourself' ("Shark Tale"), but "Kung Fu Panda" has genuine cinematic moments with dialogue that carries real weight. Best line: Oogway regarding yesterday, tomorrow and today.
So, finally, as a complete sucker for Pixar animation, I'm glad that another animation company can actually put proper thought and execution into a FAMILY movie. What else can I say? Congratulations Dreamworks. 10 out of 10.