In Kung Fu Panda, kids finally have their own Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that they can call their own in this hilarious animated parable that teaches kids to follow their dreams, even if they like extra cookies.
Po the Panda is a lovable slacker brought to life magnificently by Jack Black, a son of the town's noodlemaking goose (James Hong), Mr. Ping. Ping wants his son to take the family business seriously, but Po only has dreams of becoming a martial artist like his idols, the Furious Five. The Five consist of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackey Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross).
While trying to see the Furious Five in person, Po becomes mistakenly pegged as "The Dragon Warrior". The temple's instructor Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) rejects Po as the chosen one and does everything he can to make him quit his training. Thanks to the wise turtle Master Oogway (James Hong), both Po and Shifu learn to trust in each other reminding them that "Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present." When Shifu's former protege, the evil Tai Ling, escapes from his prison to exact revenge and claim the Dragon scrolls for himself, it's up to the transformed Po to stop him.
The CG animation really brings the characters to life with it's attention to detail, not only in regards to scenery, but helping make the characters come alive. You're left more inspired than saddened at the colorful passing of one of the characters and left on the edge of your seat when Tai Ling escapes from his dark, imposing prison. Directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne were careful to give the animated characters the same sense of surprise and comic timing as they would their human counterparts.
Lessons ranging from believing in yourself to forgiveness are palatable and not preachy, which is why adults and kids alike will fall in love with this film and it's titular panda. Po and company also reminds little kids and grownups alike that martial arts is more about personal discovery and less about kicking someone in the head. At 88 minutes, it's a definite relief from this summer's 2 hour plus fare. Kung Fu Panda will definitely keep you laughing and have you looking forward to the next chapter of Pandamonium.
Billy Tatum gives this 4 1/2 Scoops (Out of five).