Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda ★★★★

I'm late to the party on this one, especially considering I'm a huge fan of animation in general, but I figured I had better get through the first two entries into the trilogy before seeing Kung Fu Panda 3. I was skeptical for the past few years of it's quality, mainly because of it's absurd title and uninteresting premise (personally, at least). I had anticipated a film chock full of juvenile jokes intended for middle school boys, another entry into the hit or miss Dreamworks canon.

I'm happy to say I was wrong! Kung Fu Panda thrives because of it's stellar vocal performance from the underrated Jack Black, and a whole lot of heart. It's a sweet, cheery and delightfully predictable tale of an overweight and unassuming panda bear realizing his dream and becoming a kung fu hero. The supporting voice cast is adequate, featuring the talents of Seth Rogen, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Angelina Jolie, and David Cross in minor albeit vital roles. There's an enormous amount of heart to be found in the relationship between Po's "Dad" and Po himself, their waning relationship and desire to do greater things. Then there's the dynamic between Oogway and Shifu, a transitional period from the comfort of the past to the uncertainty of the future.

Kung Fu Panda is almost entirely reliant on Jack Black's wonderfully funny performance, but there are also an astounding amount of beautiful visuals, a talented supporting cast and a refreshingly straightforward narrative that wraps itself up in time without wearing out it's welcome. A really solid effort from Dreamworks, and evidence that you shouldn't judge a film until you watch it (except for 50 Shades of Black, avoid that shit.)