Kung Fu Panda Kicks Asps

Saturday, 7 March 2009

And monkeys, tigers, cranes and praying mantisesesses…

Today I took eight children to see Kung Fu Panda. I figure eight is a lucky number.

Actually, they were stunningly well-behaved kids, aged between 5 and can’t-tell-their-age-because-they-are-teens-going-on-22 (the sophistication is scary!). But despite my well-behaved posse, the experience was nonetheless surreal.

Surreal because I was told I could not find out the show times for today until this morning because… truthfully? God Only Knows Why, but the usher alluded to the fact that it was due to Half-Price-Tuesdays when tickets are in higher [read: over-sold] demand.

Surreal because I was panicking to get tickets yet we ended up the only nine patrons in the entire theatre.

Surreal because I was expecting to constantly hush and shush the other patrons who would carry on full voice conversations on their mobile phones, play games on said mobile phones and possibly even play ping pong during the film (sorry, past bad experience at the Russian Ballet here in Beijing – not much of an exaggeration, either).

Surreal because the massive stash of cheap supermarket treats I concealed in my handbag for my rather large film-going posse was not uncovered via a mandatory search at the ticket gate. I was really sweating this one.

Surreal because the kids were so gorgeous and well-behaved and didn’t even argue about where to sit – a feat considering the theatre was all ours!

Surreal because we all laughed in totally different spots. Couldn’t have been cultural disparity either because we’re all from the same country (let’s not mention the fact that we are, however, from different generations).

Surreal because this film is GOOD! I mean, really good. And I panic each time a newbie cartoon flick comes out because I’m rather and obsessively addicted to them (just a big kid, me) and also love to watch my kids enraptured by their cleverness and delight. Not since Ratatouille and possibly Flushed Away has a cartoon flick made me laugh out loud – and pretty consistently, too.

Jack Black as Po the Panda is brilliant and steals the show with his hilarious physical presence, but the Furious Five – a monkey, snake, crane, praying mantis and tiger are also action-figure worthy. Dustin Hoffman as the Master Shifu is in fine voice and with Lucy Liu as Viper and Angelina Jolie as Tigress, it’s a bit of a fame-fest.

Not only is it a laugh-out-loud film, the visuals are typically lush and whimsically beautiful, showcasing China at its finest, apparently (to my eyes, anyway) set in a mythical Yangshuo with Mt Huangshan-esque pagodas on mountaintops, sprouting delicate blossom trees overhanging breathtaking views. Let’s just say these animators are very clever people.

Then there’s the kung fu sequences, cut straight from real life, of course – with 3D multi-angle frozen takes √† la The Matrix. You’d have to be made of petrified wood not to cheer on this rotund, noodle-slurping Panda as he takes on the film’s evil protagonist. Just hilarity.

Watch out for one of my favourite moments when Po’s noodle-house Dad reveals something to Po that he should have told him long ago…

Don’t walk – run! to Kung Fu Panda and do try to enjoy it on the big screen. When we were leaving, one of my well-behaved posse, with tongue firmly planted in cheek (let’s call him Sid) told me that you can also see this film on… wait for it… counterfeit DVD! Scandalous!

First published on the City Weekend Beijing website.

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