Kung Fu Panda
Directed by John Stevenson and Mark Osborne

Written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger

Starring the voices of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Ian McShane and others


Kung Fu Panda

I saw "Kung Fu Panda" in a crowded theatre that was probably 60 percent kids; all of them had of course come to see a comedy. What was interesting was that hardly anyone laughed - not adults, not kids, and certainly not me. It's just not funny; it's as though when the suits in Hollywood got through putting everything they could think of into the film, they forgot that it had to be funny as well.

In fact, the first ten minutes of the film are so packed with computer-generated images from one side of the frame to the other that you can barely tell what's going on in the way of a plot. And the plot is simple: Po the panda (voiced by Jack Black), works in his father's noodle shop but harbors dreams of being a kung-fu hero. A new hero is being chosen by Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), and fat, slow, out-of-shape Po wants to be chosen. Not to keep you in suspense, he is chosen just as the villainous Tai Lung (Ian McShane) manages to release himself from prison and come back to obliterate the village.

It's not a bad premise - not original, God knows - but serviceable as these things go. But, also as these things go, the casting of famous names who each get about three lines of dialogue - in this case Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, and Michael Clarke Duncan among others - adds nothing at all to the film.

What's sad is that everyone in the theatre was there to see a comedy, and everyone was prepared to laugh, but no one did. The filmmakers were so intent on showing us how they coule animate a panda, how they could throw things around, how they could stage a kung-fu fight, and how literal they could make their animation, that they forgot to write in amusing physical or verbal bits. For that matter, they also forgot to write in some scary moments, or moments of introspection as well, the kind of moments that set off the comedy and make it better. Go back and take a look at "Toy Story 2" to see just what "Kung Fu Panda" is missing.