Our hero is Po, a panda who lives, breathes and eats kung-fu. Well, he doesn’t eat it, but he devours pretty much everything else in his path.
In addition to food, Po dreams of becoming the Dragon Warrior. Due to being in the right place at the right time, Po wins the coveted appointment. For most of the film it appears to be a nominal position, but when Tai Lung escapes from prison, Po has to defeat him.
I hope I’m not issuing a major spoiler here by revealing that Po does indeed defeat the evil Tai Lung, largely by virtue of his ability to absorb fatal body blows with his body fat.
Then Po’s father turns out to be a goose. Actually, this is revealed right at the start, but had it comprised the denouement, it would have made for a better film. The writers rather squandered that plot twist.
Number of problems. First, this is a chow socky movie, yet not one of the characters – not even once – said ‘ha so, glasshoppa’. Second, nobody dies honourably. Not only that, nobody even dies dishonourably. Granted, this is a children’s movie and it is difficult to kill off cartoon characters due to their elasticity and the problems inherent in realistically rendering blood/gore/brain matter. All I’m saying is that maybe kung fu was not the ideal subject matter for this movie.
Here’s another issue: I still can’t figure out what the moral/message is. At this stage, good triumphing over evil is more an established principle than a message per se. Since it is a children’s movie (see above), there’s evidently a message somewhere. The only thing I came away with was: if you eat lots of cookies, you can do kung fu. Which doesn’t seem to be a particularly healthy message.
Whereas it is encouraging that popular media is championing a rotund hero instead of jamming size 00 models down our throats, did Po have to be quite so FAT? I mean, we’re not talking about a vaguely cuddly panda here. Po qualifies as clinically obese. You could hear his animated arteries groaning over the soundtrack.
It seems likely that Kung Fu Panda is trying to expound belief in one’s dreams and the subsequent realisation thereof. In other words, a standard variation on the mantra of an over-privileged society blblablah. Assuming this to be the case and just for a change, I for one would applaud a protagonist striving to attain a realistic goal. For example, in Po’s case, eating 500 wantons in under a minute, or being able to see his hind paws one day.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should reveal that The Bro felt the movie depended too much on pratfalls.
On the plus side the film, heavily influenced by classical Chinese art, is quite gorgeous to look at. The action scenes were beautifully choreographed and awesome to watch. If you’re interested, it is worth checking out the official movie website, which includes trailers and clips from the movie