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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
PG
Cast
Jack Black
Angelina Jolie
Jackie Chan
Lucy Liu
Dustin Hoffman
Ian McShane
Seth Rogen.
Directors
John Stevenson
Mark Osborne.
Screenwriters
Jonathan Aibel
Glenn Berger .
Running Time
92 minutes

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Kung Fu Panda
Like the Karate Kid, but fatter and furrier


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Plot
Slacker panda Po (Black) gets more than he bargained for when he is selected as the Dragon Warrior - a fabled kung fu master - and pitted against a vengeful snow leopard (Ian McShane).


Review
Kung Fu Panda
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With the exception of the first Shrek and Aardman’s efforts under its aegis, DreamWorks Animation has tended to pale considerably when compared to the Pixar monolith. Shark Tale, Bee Movie and Madagascar were mediocre efforts, stranded in a morass of quickly dating pop-culture references, uninspired gags and a general absence of the spirit and visual acuity that sets John Lasseter’s mob apart. And, apart from an excellent Manga-style dream sequence that opens the picture, it seems after the first 25 minutes or so of Kung Fu Panda that the run is going to continue. There’s nothing particularly compelling here, as Jack Black’s Po gets accidentally selected to become the fabled Dragon Warrior, and tries desperately to prove himself to wise old Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and his new, sceptical dojo-mates. In fact, it’s pretty rote stuff, as Po topples over, bumps into things and sends stuff flying like a fat, furry version of the Chuckle Brothers.

But then something rather wonderful happens, ratcheting the film up to the dizzying heights where Pixar and a few select others reside. That something is an escape attempt by the movie’s villain, Tai Lung (voiced with relish by Ian McShane), a psychotic snow leopard so dangerous that he’s been imprisoned in a mountain hellhole constructed especially for him. In an exhilarating sequence, Tai Lung manages to negotiate the three fiendish levels of the jail in a flurry of punches, kicks and gravity-defying leaps that culminate in a magnificent series of vertigo-inducing shots. In fact, ignore the fact that you’re seeing combinations of panda, snake, tiger, snow leopard, crane and monkey duking it out, and chances are that the kung fu action sequence of your dreams is here.

From a devilishly clever sequence where the ‘Furious Five’ take on Tai Lung on an unravelling rope bridge, to a hugely enjoyable training sequence between Shifu and Po and the final showdown between Po and Tai Lung (featuring the funniest use of slo-mo we’ve seen in ages), directors Mark Osborne and John Stevenson take advantage of the limitless possibilities of CGI to bring us action on a scale, and of a type, rarely seen before.

But it’s not all about (surprisingly violent) fisticuffs or roundhouse kicks. There’s a level of visual beauty here that’s a notch above anything DreamWorks has attempted before - a sequence where the ancient master, Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), blends with a cloud of cherry blossom is achingly gorgeous. And, while the movie doesn’t deliver frequent belly laughs, it does get funnier as it goes along, with the relationship between Po and Shifu particularly rich in humour. Of course, it’s all leading to a standard ‘be yourself’ message, but while the kidlings are digesting that tidbit of profundity, you can wallow in action that well and truly socks it to your chops. Hard. You’ll never look at Ling-Ling in the same way again.


Verdict
Rudimentary plot and merely decent gags aside, this is the finest DreamWorks Animation effort since the first Shrek, chiefly because of its astonishing visuals and kinetic kung fu sequences.


Reviewed by Chris Hewitt

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Kung Fu Panda
Empire Star Rating

Kung Fu Panda Review

Kung Fu Panda has a familiar message, but the pleasing mix of humor, swift martial arts action, and colorful animation make it winning entertainment. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 22:05, 02 January 2012 | Report This Post


Kung Fu Panda

A really good, groundbreaking animated achievement. It sure not equals WALL-E (released in 2008, as well), but it sure is a great effort in children's films. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 05:17, 18 July 2011 | Report This Post


RE: Good jokes, gags and animation

Yes, a very enjoyable film with Black, Hoffman and McShane (is there currently any other actor who can play a dastardly baddie any better?) in particular coming across well. Great animation, great gags and a film that will leave you hankering for dim sum, noodles and the lightning fast chop stick skills that you first learned during The Karate Kid. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Francis46 at 20:53, 17 January 2010 | Report This Post


Good jokes, gags and animation

much better than i expected and yet again the magic of jack black can carry a whole film and just his voice in this film makes me laugh and to also have jackie chan, dusitn hoffman and angelina jolie cant hurt and to have the pure comedy born straight away from having a panda do kung fu is right there. it does what it says on the in but does it well and is perfectly enjoyable but if you want real animation classics then you might want to check out wall-e instead. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by THE DALTONATOR at 10:38, 25 January 2009 | Report This Post


Brilliant Cartoon Effort.

I always wanted to see this, my sister and her husband had seen it and they said it was brilliant. So I rented it out and saw it last night, I thought it was a brilliant cartoon with stunning artwork and very cool kung-fu. Now, I did enjoy the Matrix series and has a load of slow-mo moves, in this they use it a lot but it works for kids and adults. The violence can be a bit shocking for kids as it's qutie brutal, though there's no blood but they will like the laughs and the shining charaters. Ja... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by joanna likes films at 09:24, 22 November 2008 | Report This Post


Not bad at all, this animation flick about a phat panda who wants to learn how to do Kung Fu. Already in the second scene the moral of the story gets put on pretty thick, something that is repeated a few times during the film and towards the ending gets a bit too forced. Luckily this doesn`t kill the film. It`s saved by the animations that look really good and the humor from (especially) the lead character Po (an excellent part by Jack Black). All in all this is pretty OK try of Dreamworks ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 20:30, 12 August 2008 | Report This Post


RE: No charge for awsomeness

i;m not a big fan of animated films, but i thoroughly enjoyed kung fu panda. i thought it was entertaining and funny, witha great story and some darkness behind characters.  4/5 from me ] ... More

Posted by LiritLeBoursier at 20:03, 31 July 2008 | Report This Post


Definitely one of 2008 highlights

Right by now we know The Dark Knight has become the best film of the year, but by god this film deserves at least the nomination for best animated feature at the oscar's. It may not be as hilarious as the first 2 Shrek films but Jack Black is comedy gold but that we already knew from his brilliant turn in High Fidelity and School of Rock. Po is one of the best animated characters in recent years. Of course with WALL-E pretty much making the rounds for animated films this year its obvious it'll b... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by elmwood2309 at 21:13, 30 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Kung Fu Panda

Way way better than I expected. So glad they didnt screw this up, 4 stars! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by scarface666brooksy!! at 04:26, 29 July 2008 | Report This Post


MR T aged 6

wow its brilliant i loved it and so did my dad who is a real kung fu master. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 18:41, 27 July 2008 | Report This Post


MR T aged 6

wow its brilliant i loved it and so did my dad who is a real kung fu master. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 18:41, 27 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: No charge for awsomeness

I really enjoyed this.  I would have to agree that Dreamworks stuff doesn't really do it for me much apart from the first Shrek and there isn't much point in comparing it to Pixar but as a fan of martial arts movies I thought this was great.  I really wasn't expecting such great action sequences, the two obvious standouts being the rope-bridge and the prison-break and the quality of the animation was much better than other Dreamworks stuff.  A fairly predictable kids movie but on... More

Posted by scary_ice at 23:03, 22 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: No charge for awsomeness

Dreamworks are very hit and miss - this is one of their biggest hits. Po the Panda is a very likeable character most of the time, and the backstory with Master Shifu and Tai Lung is a good idea. Oogway is amazing, and his prophecies were a great touch. Definitely worth catching.   8/10 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Paul2j at 23:56, 21 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: No charge for awsomeness

Brilliant fun from start to finish and excellent voice work from the entire cast.  The prison breakout scene is the best action set piece I've seen all year. ... More

Posted by mackey at 19:45, 18 July 2008 | Report This Post


No charge for awsomeness

This was a thoroughly entertaining film, with moments of genius (prison break), sublime comedy (opening sequence) and enough in between to keep both children and their adults entertained. My kids are still talking about it two weeks later.   In terms of quality, it is one of Dreamworks' best films - back up to the standards of Shrek but with much more beautiful visuals (Japanese scenery). Following that line of thought, I'm guessing there will be a KFP2 and KFP3, which will probab... More

Posted by beancounter at 13:23, 17 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Kungin' Fantastic

You know, you have to pity Dreamworks. If this was any other year, perhaps one in it, Kung Fu Panda would have soared through the heavens. There a price for attractiveness, and finally Dreamworks have paid it. This is the best looking movie they've ever released. Bar none. If I was behind the Madagascar II trailer that came on before the main feature I'd have cringed. Kung Fu Panda is the first time Dreamworks have approached Pixar's legendary attention to detail. And it's not just t... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Yvash at 19:55, 15 July 2008 | Report This Post


Kungin' Fantastic

I saw this film last night with mild skepticism, I always view Dreamsworks efforts with a bit of a cloud of cynicism (all trhe cisms coming out!) due to the lack of quality in Madagascar, Shark Tale and more recently Bee Movie. However I was blown away by Kung Fu Panda. I would agree that the film sags, in my opinion when Po first begins his training, there is a short while when it seems to be merely "Po tries to do Kung Fu, ends up getting hit/falls over" however after the breathtakin... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Angusto at 11:20, 15 July 2008 | Report This Post


Kung Fu Panda

I watched this film on Sunday and absolutely loved it! I thought it was hilarious, the action scenes were cool and the animation was eye catching. Highly recommended by me! ... More

Posted by Film Buff at 09:41, 15 July 2008 | Report This Post


cover me in chocolate and feed me to the pandas

even if the stunning animation is'nt good enough for you, you should stil appreciate the way in which jack black manages to be funny even through the actions of a panda. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mikeypotts at 13:21, 14 July 2008 | Report This Post


cover me in chocolate and feed me to the pandas

even if the stunning animation is'nt good enough for you, you should stil appreciate the way in which jack black manages to be funny even through the actions of a panda. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by mikeypotts at 13:21, 14 July 2008 | Report This Post


kung fun panda!

Thanks Empire! Wasn't sure if I wanted to see this, but the review made me want to see it. Glad I did, 'cause this is one enjoyable film!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by distortEd at 11:24, 14 July 2008 | Report This Post


Kung Fu Panda

With great opening credits i thought here we go. but then came a so-so first half hour with few laughs. then suddenley as Po is to become the chosen one the film springs into life. slap stick kung fu and a good bad guy too match. with a great voice cast Jack Black, Dustin hoffman and Ian McShane having fun as the snarling snow leopard. pity about the slow begining ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by haygaz at 16:40, 11 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Kung Fu'd!

Fun and Enjoyable, It was good for the dream sequence to be the old-fashioned 2-D Kind. Jack Black is like Marmite, you either love him or hate him. It was great to see the acting heavyweight that is Dustin Hoffman jump on the Pixar bandwagon. Quite a few funny moments, most unexpected was the tortoise trying to be wise and all-knowing as he tries to blow out a candle, turns to speak then tries to blow another even though he's very old and there are dozens more to go. Jackie Chan wa... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Sphinx at 21:09, 10 July 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Kung Fu'd!

Really enjoyed this and after the Mess of Shrek3 and the Dullness of Bee Movie ,Dreamworks gets its right.   Loved Jack Black as Po and they sly in jokes (Kill Bill for a start) the action was top grade and the lack of pop culture references which made Shrek 3 soo boring were kept in check.   Also comparing these Films to The PIXAR movies is pointless ,Enjoy this film on it own merits i say 8/10  ... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 11:52, 10 July 2008 | Report This Post


Kung Fu'd!

Just got back from watching this, and i have to say how amazed i was by the visuals. The fight scenes, chiefly the prison break and the showdown on the bridge are choreographed to perfection, i was on the edge of my seat throughout. Voice acting was top notch, although i feel jackie chan was waaaay underused. This film aint pushing any boundaries but i feel in a genre which is saturated which 2 star efforts this more than holds its own.. My opinion, better than shrek and nemo, but not quite toy ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jorvik at 22:33, 08 July 2008 | Report This Post


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