Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda ★★★★½

Kung Fu Panda the movie is much like its kung fu panda Po: unassuming, easily dismissed, a laughable concept. This is a movie about a panda who learns kung fu, voiced by Jack Black and animated by DreamWorks; what was I expecting, a miracle?

And that's exactly what I got, a literal masterpiece where the animated nature of the film complements the Chinese aesthetic perfectly, where shadow-puppetry and and woodblock prints and scroll paintings are infused and blended completely with the computer-generated imagery, an art direction and production design so well-crafted it took years of research to bring about, fusing high- and low-brow cinema seamlessly considering that's exactly what martial arts movies have historically done (fittingly inspired by the likes of Kung Fu Hustle, another loving and impeccable pastiche of the genre), a ridiculously action-packed and entertaining film with incredible fight choreography that's bolstered by and perhaps even only possible due to its animated nature, exaggerations and styles all respectfully-replicated in blindingly-fast scenes where pure martial magic is displayed without indulgence and inducing outright chills with its physical grace and humor, a perfectly-paced movie where every scene is steeped in humor and emotion and sheer operatics that reflect the genre well but in the most accessible of ways, and imparting an age-old lesson via the classic "outsider fitting in" through acceptance and love and self-actualization.

This movie about a panda learning kung fu made me want to weep in joy at its physical feats, in sorrow at its dramatic turns, and in awe at its sheer and utter beauty. There is a reason why China has embraced it as a stand-out film in the wuxia realm and it is, without hesitation, one of the best movies I have ever seen.

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