Kung Fu Panda – Legend tells of the coming of a Dragon Warrior. Obsession over it drove the mighty Tai Lung to destruction in a spurned rage when it was not to be he. Now, finally the time of the Dragon Warrior is here. But apparently it is in the form of kung-fu superfan, Po. A large panda, with all the grace of, well, a large panda. With Tai Lung’s return imminent, can Po be trained enough to stand any chance against him? And how exactly do you train a food obsessed panda…? 

Kung Fu Panda (2008) – Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson

Is Kung Fu Panda appropriate for kids?

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23581787

Rating: U

Running Length: 92 mins

Starring: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Ian McShane

Genre: Animated, Comedy, Martial Arts

REVIEW: ‘KUNG FU PANDA’

Almost nothing is more satisfying that the classic ‘character who clearly can’t do the thing wants to learn how to do the thing only to unexpectedly master the thing’ plot arc. No matter how many times we see it, if you throw in the right characters, the right tone, and the right amount of empathy, then you can get you a hit. And ‘Kung Fu Panda’ does this very, very well.

Po is living a noodle-making life. He dreams of nothing but Kung Fu. But being unexpectedly hailed as the Dragon Warrior put even his good nature to the test when all the masters around him treat his clear physical inability with disdain. Jack Black as Po plays the affable Panda just right: the comedy lands and yet doesn’t overdo it, and the surprising emotional bits (brief though they are) ring true. Shifu (Hoffman) is the grumpy master infuriated by Po’s lack of ability, and yet his back story and genuine character development makes a great twin foundation along with Po in which to support the film. And the ever reliable Ian McShane cuts a threatening figure as the mighty Tai Lung, but with enough buried vulnerability to make his ‘bad guy’ a realistic one.

The remaining cast of characters have good moments and although it would be ideal to see more of them, they round out the film nicely. ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is a well-worn tale of greatness in unexpected places and the power of self-confidence. But it’s the extra depth snuck in with the warnings of pride and self-fulfilling prophecy that give it the extra special ‘secret’ ingredient. Great gags, great performances and great artistic direction. Stick that in your noodle soup!

CONTENT: IS ‘KUNG FU PANDA’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

When a character describes Tai Lung (a large, powerful, leopard) there is a quick stylised cut away in silhouette showing slashes and characters in fear.

Po tries various methods to get into a building which culminates in him strapping fireworks to a chair. We mention this due to it potentially being imitable by showing a relaxed attitude to the danger of fireworks.

A rhino prison guard is very intimidating and scares a duck character. The duck is scared further by being taken to see someone previously described as incredibly dangerous. The duck is terrified, shaking and whimpering. The guard stamps on the tail of the prisoner in order to be cruel.

One character smacks another with a stick whilst criticising their ‘flabby parts’. Later another characters says in disdain ‘can he even see his toes?’

One character is knocked over and a tooth scatters across the floor. They are then hit repeatedly by a device that shoots fire. We don’t see this directly but hear screams from off camera. This is treated as comical and slapstick and the character isn’t overly hurt although they return battered and burnt.

A prison escape scene is exciting but the character escaping is very aggressive. He roars and growls continuously. The duck is picked up by the neck and is terrified. One guard is hit in the face with a spiked mace (there is no blood). Rhino guards are initially confident but become scared as the escape progresses.

The aftermath of Tai Lung’s movements are shown and it is said that he has ‘laid waste’ to a valley. There are static images of fires and destroyed homes.

During an emotional scene one ‘good’ character talks about their time being up. Peach blossom starts to fall off a tree and becomes more and more numerous. The blossom entirely covers up the character who is accepting of their fate. The blossom then blows away and the character is gone. Another character watches this happen and is upset by it.

The normally jovial Po runs away when learning that Tai Lung is most likely coming for him. He is stopped by a character and they argue. Po says the only reason he stayed at training when everyone was trying to get rid of him was because that hurt less than it hurts ‘just being me’.

Tai Lung reaches the training ground and is very angry. He breaks the walking stick of a beloved character which upsets another. He shouts his grievances at his old master and at one point knocks over a fire bowl, covering his paws in flames. As he attacks, he shouts and roars culminating in a slow motion shot of him jumping directly at camera and roaring whilst his paws are on fire. This is a very threatening and intimidating scene which may upset younger children, although it is at near the end of the movie. Once Po arrives, the mood shifts to a more comical / exciting tone.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT: IS ‘KUNG FU PANDA’ FOR KIDS?

‘Kung Fu Panda’ nicely chops up the pace between comedy, action, and emotional moments so that if a child is affected particularly by any part then it is over shortly and replaced by a lighter tonal shift. With plenty of colourful characters, giggle-worthy slapstick, and a truly epic and FUN ‘final battle’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is the perfect film for the family. With some scary parts and emotionally affecting moments, we would recommend this film for all ages but would recommend parental supervision for children under 5.

  • Violence: 2/5 (Lots of kung fu fighting. No blood. Characters recover quickly)
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5 (One character’s ‘death’ scene is moving)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (Tai Lung is very large and intimidating)
  • Sexual Content: 0/5
  • BadLanguage: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (talk about violence and injury. Reference to ‘bloody knuckles and broken bones’. Several ‘fat’ jokes and comments about Po)
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of fandom, meeting your heroes, destiny, improving through discipline and practice, parental disappointment, emotional eating, teamwork, and the power of suggestion.

Words by Mike Record

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