The plot is comfortingly familiar. Po stands firmly in the tradition of Jack the Giant Killer and Arthur in the Sword in the Stone. Many of the supporting characters, too, are familiar and a special mention must go to the rhinos (last seen in Robin Hood) who give a first rate performance as the guards charged with keeping Tai Lung in his mountain prison.
The film takes a while to get started, but once it does, it’s a visual feast. The animators’ imaginative exploration of the film’s Chinese theme gives us scenes which are both entertaining and breathtaking. Tai Lung’s escape from his Mordor –like prison more than justifies the price of the ticket.
Some reviewers have criticized this film for encouraging children to think that you don’t have to work at success: being true to yourself is enough. This is unfair to the overweight and distinctly un-athletic Po who submits to a rigorous programme of training under the guidance of Kung Fu master Shi Fu and aided by Monkey and friends who have overcome their prejudices to give the not-so-little panda a sporting chance. In this Olympic year, you will find more genuine sportsmanship in this unpretentious film than 100 hours of highlights from Beijing.
Kung Fu Panda is essentially a children’s film and younger audiences will be delighted by Po and his chums, but the PG rating is about right and parents should be wary of taking very young children.
Many adults will also enjoy it and it is surely a must for animation aficionados and overweight Kung Fu enthusiasts everywhere.