Set in the Valley of Peace in ancient China, this kid flick, specifically aimed at a younger audience, is an animated adventure with colorful, stylized characters voiced by a host of celebrities.
Lumbering, lovable Po (Jack Black) loves martial arts and dreams of doing heroic deeds rather than serve customers at the noodle shop run by his father, a goose named Mr. Ping (James Hong). But it’s all just wishful thinking for the pudgy panda until the inventor of kung-fu, Oogway the Turtle (Randall Duk Kim), recognizes him, albeit by default, as the Dragon Warrior destined to fulfill an ancient prophecy by saving a threatened village from the evil snow leopard, Tai Lung (Ian McShane), who breaks out of Chorh-Gom Prison. So Po reports to the Jade Palace to train with his idols, the legendary Furious Five – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) – under the leadership of their two-foot-tall guru, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), an impatient red panda who, understandably, initially doubts his ability.
Po learns that becoming a martial arts expert requires aggressive agility, mental prowess and lightning-fast reflexes, none of which come naturally to his cuddly nature. But the most important lesson he learns is “Be your own hero,” which means believing in yourself, because “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift; that’s why it’s called the present.”
Working from a script by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne hone in on the classic, timeless fable – minus pop culture references and thematic parody. Just gravity-defying, action-packed, family comedy. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kung Fu Panda” is an empowering 7, chaotic chop-socky fun.