Friday, June 27, 2008

My take on Kung Fu Panda...

Saw Kung Fu Panda yesterday. To that end, I will first drop a little something for my homey Tom Reed...

That's how you do "Kung Fu Fighting." Fully embrace the cheese. EMBRACE THE CHEESE. The rewrite on the lyrics was totally lame...made me scan the credits afterward for a child psychologist on the payroll. It's a cheesy song, from the 1970s, the cheesiest decade ever. (The '50s might have eclipsed the '70s, but I personally experienced the '70s.) Also Jack Black should not try to sing R&B. Heavy metal? Sure. But not R&B.

Getting back to Kung Fu Panda the was good, alright, but not great. It could have been so much better. The trademark Dreamworks SKG Animation bogus physics totally made what could have been bitchen fight sequences look...well...not so bitchen. When people (and funny animals) already defy gravity and the laws of physics, wirework-style choreography doesn't look so impressive. To have gravity-defying stunts, you have to have gravity in operation. Sony Imageworks licked their physics problem with Surf's Up. Which is good, because surfing in zero-g wouldn't look nearly as impressive as the surfing sequences in that underrated gem. If Sony can do it, and they haven't produced a hit movie yet, why can't Dreamworks, which had a whole string of them?

Also, why hire on superstar voice actors when you aren't going to do anything with them? How many lines did they give Jackie Chan as Monkey? How many lines did Angelina Jolie get as Tigress? (BTW Tigress is going to get Furry obsession not seen since Minerva Mink...just watch. Or don't. I won't.) And why are most of these obviously Chinese animals not voiced by Asian actors? Where was George Takei? I'm sure that Shifu could have used a little bit of his trademark sarcatic delivery, particularly when dealing with Jack Black as Panda Po. James Hong was good as the Stork who delivers the noodles...I was hoping there would be a blooper at the end where he says, "You know what the secret ingredient is in the secret ingredient soup? Eyes. Just eyes." Of course, that might go way over the heads of all except film geeks like me, particularly film geeks with a Blade Runner obsession. Another "blooper" that would have been cool would have been to have Monkey have a stunt accident. In the classic Jackie Chan Kung Fu movies, there would always be a stunt accident during the credits. After he stopped doing stunt-heavy movies, the bloopers during the credits would inevitably revolve around flubbed lines, usually due to the difference between phonemes in Chinese and phonemes in English.

However, I was not bugged by Jack Black in the title role. This really was a Jack Black movie, when you get right down to it. Jack Black in School of Rock, not Jack Black in The Pick of Destiny...this is Jack Black being family friendly, not raunchy. Much as I like the occasional artful booger and/or fart joke, there were none here. And there was only a little bit of referential humor, mostly geared around Po's fanboyness and quotes from the canon of great chop-socky cinema.

However: there is a great deal of dubious humor surrounding big folks in this one. Great Pandas in nature are big and rounded and spend most of their time grazing on bamboo leaves and shoots. Eats, shoots, and leaves...remember? Red Pandas are not as rotund, and a bit more graceful. (And Shifu is one, BTW. He's neither a Raccoon nor a Tanuki. Thought I'd clear that up because I was confuzzled about his species.) I don't mind where Po literally throws his weight around...actually I think they should have watched some Sumo to get some ideas what his natural fighting style would be like. But the scenes where he breaks stuff because he's OMG FAT! were gratuitous and 99% of the time unfunny.

Still, if ASIFA-Hollywood doesn't bring the screener around Annie time, I will likely go out and buy a copy. But I will likely be content with the screener.

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