Kung-Fu Panda

Like the old punctuation adage — Po the panda eats shoots and leaves, but he's not violent; he's just hungry.  Jack Black gives this portly bumbling noodle chef who dreams of becoming a high-kicking superstar a voice in the film, “Kung Fu Panda.”  He is tapped as the savoir of the land who must protect his friends and neighbors from the evil Tai Lung who has just escaped from jail. 

His rise to fame though doesn't sit well with the furious Five, a warrior squad made up of a tigress — Crane, Viper, Mantis and Monkey.  They are voiced by Angeline Jolie, David Cross, Lucky Liu, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan.  Dustin Hoffman is perfectly gruff as the voice of Shifu, the master trainer who has no idea where to start in turning this bumbling bear into a gallant warrior.

“Kung Fu Panda” is old school and old world, but the computer animation makes it seem fresh and contemporary at the same time.  I love that it's free of the irony that seems to permeates many of today's animated, and the filmmakers didn't feel the need to fill it with anachronistic pop culture references.  The story — albeit simple –has a great message and the computer swoops and pans around to simulate the wire fu. 

Seeing this on Imax at the Science Museum of Virginia, blown up on the huge dome, viewers can see how spectacular the animation really is.  I felt like I could reach out and touch a floating leaf at one point.  (The film also occasionally dips its digital pen and ink into a more traditional 2-D calligraphy drawing style, as a neat transition piece.)

A real testament to just how enjoyable this movie is, my 2-year-old who has more energy than a dojo full of ninjas actually sat through the entire hour and a half, absolutely mesmerized.  

“Kung Fu Panda” earns 3 ½ out of 4 stars. 

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