Jonathan Gilligan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Dirs: John Stevenson & Mark Osborne
Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane
Poe is literally my spirit animal.
Kung Fu Panda is one of those movies I should have grown up with, but somehow missed. After doing a group watch of Drunken Master last night, some of us figured since this movie is fairly short, we squeezed it in and man I wish I saw this movie sooner. Kung Fu Panda came out when I was 11 and I just know 11 Year Old Jon would have ate this movie up. 24 Year Old Jon still was able to eat this up and I had such a fun time with this movie.
CGI Animation can start to show its age at a certain point but for a movie that's about 13 years old, the animation in this movie holds up pretty damn well. The world portrayed in this movie is so vibrant and colorful, it's always pleasing to watch. The action in this movie is super entertaining and honestly better than some live action Action movies out there.
I knew Jack Black was Po going into the movie and honestly in terms of animated voice roles, Jack Black as Po is maybe god-tier casting. Look at how fun loving and energetic he is irl, and look at Po, it's perfect! And honestly, there's some great heart and emotional moments with Po trying to find his place in the world as he quickly finds himself being deemed "The Dragon Warrior", since this was my first time watching Kung Fu Panda, I honestly was surprised how was given into Po and his journey, and Jack Black embodies Po so damn well.
What honestly caught me by surprise was the cast around Jack Black. Like, I had zero idea that on top of Jack Black, this movie also has the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Ian McShane, Michael Clarke Duncan and Jackie Chan! Granted, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie and Ian McShane have the most to do in the supporting cast but I did like what they brought to the table, particularly with the growth of Shifu (Hoffman)'s attitude with Po. And while I'll talk about Ian McShane very shortly, I did like the backstory of Tai Lung (McShane) and even though Tai Lung isn't used much, they give him a lot to do.
Again, I was surprised with the amount of heart this movie had. There was some moments that genuinely touched me and got me emotional at times. And getting a little personal for a sec, but early on when Shifu and the Furious Five, Tigress (Jolie), Crane (Cross), Mantis (Rogen), Viper (Liu) and Monkey (Chan) are just fucking with Po and think he's just a fat incompentant panda hit close at times cuz with me being admittedly overweight, I related to Po more times than I care to admit honestly, but even with the Heroes Journey Po goes on and Shifu and the Furious Five eventually trusting Po, I really expecting some of the emotional heft of the movie. Even Tai Lung has some moments where I kind of felt for him.
Now as much as I liked Tai Lung as a character and I thought Ian McShane was great in the role, I honestly do wish we got more of him. His character has a great, intense intro and then later on we learn of his connection with Shifu. His motive from his perspective is something I can actually see why he is doing what he is doing. But he only really has a presence in the 3rd act. There's a great fight scene Tai Lung has with The Furious Five and then he has a nice moment with Shifu that I thought worked really well. And of course we know Po is gonna beat Tai Lung when they fight but as much as I liked Tai Lung as a character, I guess I wish we got more of him instead of an admittedly effective flashback backstory for him. And honestly, that really is my only big criticism with Kung Fu Panda as a whole.
But yeah, I really do wish I saw this movie when I was younger just cuz I know 11 Year Old me would have had major attachment with this movie. Alas, I really enjoyed Kung Fu Panda and honestly might check out the other two movies in the near future.
Grandmaster Oogway is the homie!
Rating: 4/5 Stars.