So I went to see Kung Fu Panda today, if only to stave off my starvation for a new animated film. (Wall*E is just taking FOREVER to get here.) Having experienced more than a couple of disappointing outings from Dreamworks as of late, I wasn't expecting a whole lot from Panda...... but color me wrong, because the movie ended up being a very pleasant surprise.
In fact, it feels less like a Dreamworks film, and quite a bit more like a Pixar one. It doesn't go terribly overboard with pop-culture and satirical references, but simply aims to tell a solid coming-of-age tale, and the importance of acceptance. A couple of folks have even likened it to the caliber of Brad Bird film-making, and though I wouldn't go that far, it's definitely got the heart of one. There is of course the fight scenes, which admittedly doesn't pick up until well into the second half, but once they get going, they're an absolute blast to watch. The casting is generally good all around, but the accolades clearly go toward Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman for their stellar performances as Po and Shifu respectively. The inclusion of James "Oh, five, ten minutes...... Seinfeld, four!" Hong as Po's pop automatically earns the film another star in my book.
I'll need to give the soundtrack a more careful listen, but the first impression I got was Zimmer channeling a bit of his style from Pirates of the Caribbean's Singapore material - just more upbeat and more progressive in orchestration. It's probably not a stretch to assume John Powell handled more of the tenser cues.