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Po, the son of a great noodle chef (which must have been a true amour fou – but we are not told what the mother looks like) daydreams about his future career as sword-fighting, iron-willed Kung Fu warrior, fighting his fiercest enemies with the speed of light and without so much as a flinch in the face of danger. More than surprising, when real life danger comes about and the Kung Fu Grandmaster needs to activate the hero of heroes, the Dragon Warrior, his choice on who that master should be falls on fat and slow Po. Who stands up to the challenges and beats the evil snowcat, of course.
A magnificient melange of role models: in the opening fight dream sequence, it becomes very much undestinguishable whether the Japanese Samurai traditon, the modern Takeshi Kitano interpretations, Ang Lee’s Americanisms or the Tarantino rip-off stand model – all is one, and well done it is, quoting everybody and doing it with ferocious vigour.
Interesting, by the way, that this opening sequence also has a different director and is much closer linked to the Asian martial arts tradition as the rest of the film.
That main part is definitely cute despite the fact that a Panda is not a particularly interesting animal. But all the others are, from LaoShi, the (surprise!) teacher, over the Magnificent 5?, Ferocious 5? Marvellous 5? Furious 5! those fighting beasts anyway, to the ancient turtle grandmaster. As always most care has been given to the design of the bad guy, the snow leopard whose name I forgot. That evil one is being sketched very evil and dark, indeed, and I kept wondering how the Mordor-like prison where he is being rather inhumanely kept prisoner, immobilised for life, actually, will go down with the kids watching this. But definitely my favourite sequence.
On a lighter note, the expected training and practice squences are well done, with some stunning movements being triggered by the one motivation Po knows about: food! I could not help, however, but think of the much more brilliant “Montage” sequences in both the South Park skiing episode and the “Team America: World Police” feature. How can you do a training montage these days without singing “If you want show the progress but only have a little time, you need a MONTAGE!”??
If a film is made for IMAX, see it in IMAX! Brilliant picture, sound, everything. Definitely worth the extra money and an experience to which you cannot even get near when watching it on youku.com or any of those other sites.
One downside I mentioned: the Panda… but there is another, which is the voice cast. I would only recommend to all those animation producers to abandon the nonsense habit of casting famous actors. Get good voice actors, forget about the Jacky Chans or Lucy Liu’s who cannot act for the life of them, not to speak when limited to their voices. Jack Black is also an odd choice, and can only be explained because the casting agent looked at the body volume of the actor and the panda and realised increasing similarity? The unknown Tai Lung voice (now I remember the name: that’s the evil cat – and check out the record of Ian MacShane at IMDB – that guy even played in Dallas!) is by far the best, only Dustin Hoffman can stand up to that a little bit.
Still very enjoyable, with furious fighting sequences (may be a bit violent for the little ones, but I am not that little…) and I seem to remember even an impressive soundtrack.

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