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Blu-ray Review: Kung Fu Panda

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Written by Senora Bicho

Po (Jack Black) dreams of being a kung fu master but being an overweight, uncoordinated panda makes working in his father’s noodle restaurant seems more appropriate. One day the tortoise Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) has a vision that Tai Lung (Ian McShane), a kung fu master who went bad, will escape from prison so Oogway calls for a ceremony to select the Dragon Warrior, who legend says is to be a supreme kung fu master. The red panda Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) believes that one of the Furious Five [Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen) or Crane (David Cross)], whom he has trained, will be chosen. Due to a series of wacky events, Po ends up being selected as the Dragon Warrior.

Shifu and the Furious Five reject him at first and believe that Po is an embarrassment to the group. Shifu is determined to get Po to quit. Po discovers Tai Lung was raised and trained by Shifu and both believed that Tai Lung was to be the Dragon Warrior. When Oogway disagreed, Tai Lung became enraged and attacked the village and that is what caused his imprisonment. Shifu was very hurt as he loved Tai Lung and has refused to love anyone since. Tai Lung does escape from jail and Shifu eventually comes around and trains Po. The Furious Five try and fight Tai Lung themselves but are unsuccessful. Once Po’s training is complete he is given the dragon scroll but it is blank so he returns home and Shifu is going to fight Tai Lung. Once home, Po’s dad teaches him that what makes something special is to believe that it is special. With this knowledge Po rushes off to fight Tai Lung.

The video is presented in 1080p and 2.35:1 ratio and the artwork looks absolutely stunning. This is the disc to impress people who are curious about upgrading to Blu-ray. Just make sure they are prepared to have their eyes pop and their jaws drop. The colors are amazingly vibrant and the detail is extremely impressive from the animals’ fur and feathers to textures of objects that are inconsequential to the movie. The opening sequence has a great style all its own. It’s sad but true that this digital-to-digital transfer weakens the argument for fans of hand-drawn cel animation.

The audio is Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The action sequences make great use of the surround and the subwoofer gets a good workout, but the sound team also treats the quieter moments with just as much attention.

The disc has a lot of extras with a mix for children and adults. The Blu-ray exclusives are “Animator’s Corner,” which uses picture-in-picture to show storyboards and interviews to explain the film’s creation, and “Trivia Track,” a pop-up feature that is self-explanatory. Both can be accessed while the movie is running. BD-Live feature offers “A Day in the Life: A Shaolin Monk in Training” and “Po Around the World.”

Most of the other extras are presented in high definition. “Meet the Cast” is a featurette that introduces the characters and their voice actors. “Pushing the Boundaries” highlights the animation, and “Sound Design” focuses on the sound of the movie. “Mr. Ping’s Noodle House” is a standard-definition segment featuring Alton Brown the host of Iron Chef America that illustrates how to make noodles, and “How to Use Chopsticks” is just what it says. “Conservation International: Help Save Wild Pandas” provides information about pandas, encourages protecting them and tells how. “Dragon Warrior Training Academy” is a game that gives players the opportunity to become a dragon warrior. “Printables & Weblinks” is accessible through a computer. There’s also a music video for “Kung Fu Fighting” by Cee-Lo, “Learn the Panda Dance”, “Do You Kung Fu?”, a DreamWorks animation jukebox, DreamWorks trailers, and more.

However, what’s surprisingly absent is the 25-minute animated film Secrets of the Furious Five that is available on DVD. It’s almost inexplicable that it wouldn’t be included, but this is no doubt some terrible idea by some marketing weasel. Even if there were no room to add on the disc in its current state, surely fans would be willing to pass on some of the extras to have this altogether. If it doesn’t appear on the Kung Fu Panda 2 Blu-ray, Dreamworks should be embarrassed and I will encourage people to steal themselves a copy.

I really enjoyed Kung Fu Panda, the story was fun and interesting and can captivate both kids and adults. The characters are well developed for a cartoon and the voice selections are perfect. Jack Black is the star of the show and doesn’t disappoint; he is perfect as the bumbling lovable panda. Plus, the Blu-ray disc is marvelous. Even if you don’t have children, you should give this one a chance.

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