It’s been bad movie after bad movie, like some first-quarter dumping ground of projects that wouldn’t make it to the screen at any time that matters. All the bad movies of January have left me scarred. I chose Kung Fu Panda over The Finest Hours not because I thought it would be better or worse but merely because it was 22 minutes shorter. And after all, I’d just seen one terrible kid’s show – I could sit through this. Imagine my surprise when Kung Fu Panda turned out to be outstanding.
There was this nagging feeling throughout the entire movie for me- every single character’s voice sounded vaguely and insistently familiar. I mean I knew Jack Black was the lead but I had no idea that EVERY character was voiced by a big name. Angelina Jolie, JK Simmons, Bryan Cranston… and I didn’t realize it because it worked so well. It doesn’t always work – in an interview I saw with Billy West (voice actor in Futurama and many other things) he said celebrities often play versions of themselves and that doesn’t always fit in animation. But it worked beautifully here and I sat watching the credits as name after name popped up and I realized who they were and what a good job they did.
The most important thing about this movie though, was how utterly gorgeous it was. And not just the first 10 minutes as some movies try to get away with. A good look can make a ridiculous movie watchable (koff koff Jupiter Ascending) but what it can do for a good movie is just amazing. And not just the beautiful scenery, but the character design as well. Each of the main characters would be easily recognizable in silhouette. The background characters not so much, it is a village of pandas after all, but even there the diversity among the secondary characters was not only impressive, they used it.
The writing was so good. The dialogue, though a bit cheesy in places, was still great. There was so much energy. It was perfectly paced. Strange, too – Kung Fu Panda 3 didn’t suffer for the ‘3’ part, it was independently a terrific movie in its own right. If the other two previous ones hadn’t been made, this Kung Fu panda would still be awesome. I haven’t seen the first two, it didn’t matter. I’m going to watch them now, though. The best thing about the writing was the themes, which is actually what the movie was about. Kung Fu Panda 3 was about connection and family but also about trying to find who you really are.
So should you see this movie? Yes. Take the kids, wear the 3D glasses. It was that good. I’m not going to see it again right away, not with the two other Kung Fu Pandas on Netflix to watch first. But I AM going to see it again, I can’t not. It’s even making me rethink my rating system, below. This movie was nearly perfect, it deserves a higher score than 81%.