June 14 – It may not yet be out in China, but in the U.S. this past week, the animated DreamWorks film “Kung Fu Panda” grossed over US$60 million in its opening week, bumping Sex and the City from the top spot at the Box Office.
Released to take advantage of increased interest in all things Chinese in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics, the film follows Po the panda (Jack Black) as he makes his way through a very familiar hero’s journey. Along the way, he is helped by Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), a Yoda-like spiritual advisor (and turtle) who invented kung fu, as well as the kung fu master Shifu (a red panda voiced by Dustin Hoffman), and his students: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan) Crane (David Cross and Mantis (Seth Rogen).
Being a children’s animated feature, there are a varied assortment of different cartoon animals, but no matter. All is thrown into chaos when the deadly Tai Lung, a white tiger, frees himself from prison and sets about wreaking havoc on a perceived slight from the very village that the Po, a noodle waiter, lives in. Kung fu and pithy comments commence and the film rolls along, supplying just enough to keep seven year olds open mouthed, and for children of all ages (be they 18 or 40) the pop culture references that don’t play down to the audience. Your children will beg you to see it, and so you should. With its beautiful animation, both hand drawn and computer generated, this is one for the big screen, and the action sequences are pretty astounding.
This summer won’t just be about the Chinese Olympics, it willl also be about a fat, belching kung fu panda named Po. With Olympics coverage reaching a fever pitch, and Hollywood chipping in with this fuzzy gem, escaping Chinese culture, real or animated, is going to be very hard over the next few months.