Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda ★★★★★

I probably haven't seen this movie in like eight years, or something around that time. Don't get me wrong: I owned this on DVD as a kid (and used that same DVD to watch it tonight), so you can bet I watched it a couple dozen times or so, enough to remember pretty much every scene and line of dialogue. I've seen the second one, but not the third. I had rewatched bits of this film from time to time, but never the whole film. And I gotta say...it held up just as good, maybe better, than I remember it being.

I know this is generally regarded as a good movie, but for some it can't reach the insanely memorable nature of the Shrek franchise, or even have the meme potential something like Bee Movie has. So while people do like this, I almost feel it's underrated. Now I love Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, and others as much as the next guy, but this is easily one of DreamWorks Animation's best.

It pulls off the action-comedy tone INCREDIBLY well. Similar to Shrek and Shrek 2 specifically, it knows how to poke fun at itself or provide a laugh while simultaneously giving you an emotional investment to these characters and the story at hand. I actually laughed often throughout. Not just chuckles, but actual laughs (and keep in mind, I remembered a majority of the punchlines from countless rewatches all those years and years ago). I noticed that so much of the comedy comes from the vocal delivery, with all the voice performances being perfectly suitable. The deliveries of Black, Hoffman, Rogen, among others, make these gags hilarious. The energetic animation also helps too. Also, that animation is stunning. Pretty much everything about it still holds up 12 years later. The beautiful and fast-paced animation comes at a huge benefit to the action scenes, which are quite honestly gripping. Even though I know the outcomes of every action scene, it's so quick and executed so well that I can't help but be thrilled. Being animation, it can take advantage of the speed and camera angles that you just can't perfect in live-action. The way the story plays out is so clever. The message of just being yourself is something we've probably heard before, but this film tackles it in such a unique, honest way. The theme of that message, as well as the thought-provoking metaphors by Oogway, help make this film stand out beyond "another animated kids movie."

I get it, you're probably reading this and saying to yourself, "The THOUGHT-PROVOKING metaphors by OOGWAY, an animated turtle, are you serious, Ryan?" To that I say, yes. Even though DreamWorks may never hit the delirious heights (or string of hits) that Pixar was doing at the time, their films had effort. Yeah, Shark Tale may be pretty stupid when not looking at it through nostalgia goggles, but we'll put that specific one aside. Their approaches to their films (when enough thought and care was put in) could be just as entertaining as any Pixar film, and to me, this is certainly one of those cases.

Ryan liked this review