CinemaCl🎃wn’s review published on Letterboxd:
One of the better films to come out of DreamWorks Animation canon and certainly their funniest one to date, Kung Fu Panda is an energetic blend of kinetic direction, smart writing, sparkling wit, vibrant camerawork, tight editing, first-rate animation & exuberant score that not only works as a downright hilarious comedy but also as a thrilling action extravaganza & a fascinating coming-of-age story.
Set in ancient China, which is populated by anthropomorphic talking animals, the story follows a cheeky, clumsy & squishy giant panda who aspires of becoming a kung fu master. His wish is granted when he's unexpectedly proclaimed as Dragon Warrior who will fulfil an ancient prophecy but he soon finds himself to be the subject of ridicule by the other kung fu warriors & their mentor until an old enemy returns.
Co-directed by John Stevenson & Mark Osborne, Kung Fu Panda exhibits a sense of immediacy without ever sacrificing its drama or characters for mere amusement. The setup is quick, characters & their roles are instantly identifiable and although it is a rip-roaringly hilarious ride from start to finish, it is also heartfelt in the dramatic section. Also assisting the story is the medium of animation that gives the filmmakers a limitless canvas to paint their imagination on.
Every character exhibits a full-fledged arc in this picture. The filmmakers have done a fabulous job in drawing out moments of laughter from even the most unexpected moments, the lighthearted vibe is effectively maintained throughout its runtime, the plot is relentlessly paced, and the background score by Hans Zimmer & John Powell infuses an energy of its own while the 3D animation makes neat use of available colour palette to put on screen a richly coloured world. In short, it all works out.
The film also boasts a star-studded voice ensemble in Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross & others, and all of them suit the characters they lend their voices to. The titular panda is voiced by Jack Black and the actor fits the role and imparts not only his vocals but few other attributes as well. Hoffman voices Po's mentor and their teacher-disciple chemistry is the story's driving force. McShane voices the antagonist and is able to give him an intimidating quality while the rest of the cast do well in their supporting roles.
On an overall scale, Kung Fu Panda is a fresh breathe of life from DreamWorks Animation and is one of their most enjoyable, entertaining & amusing efforts that knows where it is headed and what it is doing. Scoring high marks in nearly all departments of filmmaking, delivering its message in an easily accessible fashion, exquisitely balancing elements of comedy, drama & action, and effortlessly sustaining its hysterical wit at all times, Kung Fu Panda is one of the best films of its year and is a fun extravaganza for viewers of all ages. Delightfully recommended.