Kung Fu Panda Mark Osborne & John Stevenson

Kung Fu Panda Mark Osborne & John Stevenson
The big animated hype of the summer actually delivers. Kung Fu Panda recently made its red carpet world debut at Cannes, with stars Jack Black and Angelina Jolie in tow. Black is the voice behind a tubby slacker panda named Po who toils in his Dad’s (veteran actor James Hong) noodle shop but yearns for kung fu stardom. His prayers are answered when he literally crashes the ceremony where Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is to choose a kung fu master from one of the legendary Furious Five: Tigress (Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan). (To answer the inevitable question, Shifu is a rare red panda, not a raccoon.

As the lovable but clumsy Po struggles to convince Shifu and the Furious Five that he is indeed a kung fu artist, a former Shifu disciple, Tai Lung (Ian McShane), breaks out of his prison and comes after Shifu. The ferocious snow leopard wants revenge after Shifu denied him the title of kung fu master after training him all his life. It’s up to Po to defend everyone. Can he do it?

It takes a little getting used to the animal characters fitting into the quasi-Asian milieu of noodles, chopsticks and of course, martial arts but once that happens, Kung Fu Panda moves like an amusement park ride.

The CG animation is dazzling and the star-studded cast of voices is spot-on. Standouts are Jolie, whose Tigress threatens to steal the spotlight, Hoffman who plays the wise, old teacher and Black, whose underachieving panda is always likable and sympathetic.

It’s a stretch to believe that Po can take on Tai Lung, and it’s not entirely clear why Tai Lung was denied in the first place. However, Kung Fu Panda overcomes those faults to exude excitement and sheer fun to kids and adults alike. (Dreamworks/Paramount)