A master stands before thousands of enemies, earthly and heavenly alike. His fists fly and his feet kick with the strength of the ultimate fighter – the Dragon Warrior. With a little help from the Furious Five, he is able to take on enemies that both outnumber and outweigh him. He is on the verge of destroying them all and going down as a legend when… he wakes up.

This is the Samurai Jack-type-animation dream of Po (Jack Black), a clumsy chubby panda who wants to be a martial arts master. When his father presses him to take over the family business, Po feels his dreams wither away. With a stroke of thousand-year-luck, the master of the Jade Temple, Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), decides that it is time to choose the new Dragon Warrior. Unknown to the villagers of the Valley of Peace, Oogway has had a vision that the great and terrible Tai Lung (Ian McShane) is going to return. After a seemingly inconvenient accident, Po is chosen as the Dragon Warrior and must be trained by a reluctant Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), and an even more reluctant Furious Five, the famous kung fu masters and students of Shifu, embittered that their skills were passed over for the likes of an untrained buffoon. From then on, Po is forced to train hard to be able to take on the impressive and nearly unbeatable Tai Lung.

This movie is warm and fun to the core. From Po’s lovable clumsiness to his sarcastic sense of humor, he quickly becomes an unforgettable character. Jack Black gives an exceptional performance with his trademark voice, but the rest of the bench gets a little shallow on voice work. Dustin Hoffman and Randall Duk Kim successfully bring out their characters, but the Furious Five is little more than the Quaint Quintet (or the Wilted , if the other is too cheesy/not diverse enough for you). Angelina Jolie (Tigress) and Lucy Liu (Viper) are disappointingly flat and disproportional to their acting potential. It is especially disappointing with Jolie, since she had such an memorable voice on Beowulf. Seth Rogen (Mantis), David Cross (Crane), and Jackie Chan (Monkey) aren’t quite as bad, but they barely talk during the movie, with Cross having the most lines out of the three. It could have been an even more interesting movie less voice contributions from Jolie and Liu, but out of all the lines given to the five, roughly over half of them are given to Jolie and Liu.

Nothing can do long-term damage like a bad villain, and Kung Fu Panda stumbles a bit here. Tai Lung makes a grand entrance, which is part of the villain gig, but eventually he talks, and the spell is broken. Was Ian McShane a bad choice? In retrospect, that’s probably true, but the movie is still very good as is, with or without McShane.

From Po’s journey to become a Kung Fu Master to his master’s journey to accept him, from the fate of Oogway to the fate of the Valley of Peace, Kung Fu Panda keeps the audience watching and laughing until the very end. It’s a great experience on the big screen, and will give the kids and the adults something to talk about.

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