Though Kung-Fu Panda never approaches the transcendent levels of Wall-E or other Pixar films, it’s still one of the strongest children films I’ve seen in many years. The animation is stunning, utilizing a very stylized colour scheme, as well as some extremely evocative dream/fantasy sequences. The actual fighting is even beautiful realised, and each animals’ style is inspired by moves and techniques related to that particular animal within martial arts.
Unsurprisingly, the protagonist, Po the Panda is a dreamer who seems to be caught in a world he doesn’t want to be. Given the chance though, he is chosen as a dragon warrior and will be charged with defending the valley. Overweight, and uncoordinated, there seems little hope that he will ever even master the basics of martial arts, let alone become worthy of the title hero. He persists without question though, trying as hard as he can in face of great adversity and difficulty.
The film stresses his work ethic, even though it doesn’t seem to get him too far. It’s only when his master is taught a lesson of perseverance and compassion, that he is able to thrive. The film does well to emphasize the importance of teamwork, and teachers. How not all students are built the same, and individualized lessons are sometimes needed. It teaches that one must work with what we have to succeed, but never without a lot of work. This seems to differ from the Pixar model, which doesn’t always stress the efforts of perseverance. Though, I love the films, for them being special seems to be more than enough. I think if we look at children’s films as a means of teaching “lessons” (I’m not sure we should… but they’re there whether we like it or not), Kung Fu Panda is actually more successful and realistic.
Still, overall the script doesn’t quite match up to films like Finding Nemo or Wall-E. It’s not as clever, and the script not quite as rich. It’s still an enjoyable film, and I can’t imagine if you were to sit down to watch this with a young relative, or just on your own that you would be bored. It’s a fun time.