Has it really been five years since this very definition of cool, sassy, kick-ass CGI from directors Mark Osborne (ahem, of TV’s SpongeBob Square Pants (2003-04)) and John Stevenson (it was also a first-time feature move from the glass teat) first hit our screens?
Jack Black is Kung Fu Panda Po, swaddled in layers of black and white computer-generated fur and delivering a performance that rates among his most persuasive and appealing. All his life, Po has dreamed of joining the ‘Furious Five’ – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Snake (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) even though he’s a burly, bumbling bear – you must have been living on another planet if you didn’t catch the cute posters swathed over Europe’s city centres at the time of this film’s release, and the film is cuter yet, promise.
Visually lavish (China has rarely looked so beautiful), hysterically funny thanks to sterling voice work from those already cited and Dustin Hoffman in particular, who brings Shifu, the red panda and martial-arts master who comes to train Po to transcend his portly frame to wonderful life, and charming without having to indulge in a plethora of pop-culture references that have previously swamped certain so-called CGI masterpieces such as the Shrek canon, this really is about as good as animation gets. You will not be forgiven for missing this, either by ankle-biters or better halves, so don’t.