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Kp2castThe funniest movie animal is, of course, the chimp, followed by the talking dog and then the dancing pig. With the release of the new Jack Black animated film you can add to that list the Kung Fu Panda.

In this lush computer animated film Black portrays Po, an overweight kung fu crazy panda who dreams of becoming a master warrior. In his rich fantasy life his enemies would go blind from his “sheer awesomeness.” In reality he is the son of a noodle maker with no moves, no skill.

When he is accidentally crowned Dragon Warrior, a once-in-a-thousand-years-honor, he must look inside himself to conjure the skills to live up to the title and beat the evil Tai Lung (Ian McShane).

Training with the Furious Five warriors and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) he learns to leave his insecurities behind. “I’m not a fat Panda,” he says, “I’m the fat Panda.”

His self confidence may be at an all time high, but will it be enough to defeat Tai Lung and bring peace to his valley?

Directors Mark Osborne and John Stevenson use a mixed bag of techniques to tell the story. State of the art computer animation brings the characters to life, but the gorgeous hand drawn animation in the fantasy sequences is uncommonly sumptuous for a story like this and gives the movie real character. Imagine if Akira Kurosawa had directed a kid’s movie and you’ll get the idea.

Also strong is the voice work, particularly from old pros Hoffman and McShane, two nicely cast voices you don’t expect to hear in a movie aimed at kids.

Beautifully animated and cleverly written Kung Fun Panda should easily fill the space left on the Dreamworks slate until the next Shrek hits the screens. Packed with wit and action it is the rare kind of animated feature that should appeal to all members of the family, although it might not be quite silly enough for the nine and under crowd, but that’s a good thing for parents who will likely have to sit through this one many times over.

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