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Kung Fu Panda
Jack Black and all-star cast get a kick out of martial arts 'toon
If ever there were a case of actor matching character, it would have to be Jack Black as "Kung Fu Panda's" cheerfully rotund Po. Po may be a bear, and a two-dimensional one at that. But he's got Black's outsized personality, which has turned out to be surprisingly kid-friendly for a guy who made his name as a head-banging member of Tenacious D.
Though solidly conventional, "KFP" has a charming sweetness underscored by Black's enthusiastic performance. His Po is a lovable slacker, the type who spends all day dreaming about becoming a martial arts master without ever actually moving a muscle.
Po and his dad (James Hong) live in China's Valley of Peace, a name that proves misleading when the evil snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) threatens to destroy the region. It has been foretold that a great hero may save the valley, and most of the locals assume help will come from the Furious Five: a group of legendary fighters that includes a tigress (Angelina Jolie), crane (David Cross), mantis (Seth Rogen), viper (Lucy Liu) and monkey (Jackie Chan).
Instead, however, Po is declared the savior - an announcement that shocks everyone, including Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). It's Shifu's job to train the hero for battle, and he can't see any promise in this roly-poly panda. But is it possible that even the most unlikely candidate has the potential for greatness? That anyone can achieve his dreams, with faith and hard work?
Well, of course, it is. This is an unashamedly old-fashioned children's movie, and a predictable message is part of the mission. But that's okay; what the movie lacks in surprises, it makes up for in whimsical fun. The Chinese backdrops are gorgeous to look at, and the martial arts scenes are a blast (if a little scary for very young ones).
Besides, Black and his co-stars, especially Hoffman and McShane, are having such a good time that kids won't even notice they've already seen lessons just like these inside of fortune cookies