Or maybe the working title should be: Panda-monium?
Kung-Fu Panda was a movie we wanted to see in the theater, but didn't. So when I saw it at the store for less that most of the $19.99 prices, I snagged it and took it home.
We instantly fell in love with it.
As a general rule, the Denim parents aren't into marital art movies. That's my brother's department. What we do like, however, is a good movie.
To me, Kung-fu Panda has it all. Good animation, good action, great plot, identifiable characters and humor.
For those who haven't seen it, let me give a summary. Po, a panda, works for his dad (a goose) in a noodle restaurant. To the dad, Noodles and food are life. Po, on the other hand, dreams of heroes, being a legendary warrior, and kung-fu.
He doesn't want to tell his dad that the "noodle dream" is not shared. We get the impression that Po doesn't think his own dreams are possible. He's clumsy and big. I found it curious that he's the only panda around.
To keep some suspense, I'll try to keep this short, in case you see the movie (or want me to hush).
Through interesting circumstances, Po is chosen to be the "Dragon Warrior". He is taken in to be trained by a red panda named Shifu (excellently voiced by Dustin Hoffman). Shifu has trained "The Furious Five": Mantis, Viper, Tigress, Crane, and Monkey. Po idealizes the Five. Come to find out, Shifu has also trained the bad guy, a snow leopard named Tai Lung.
Shifu and the Furious Five think that a giant mistake has been made in the selection of the clumsy Panda as "Dragon Warrior", by Master Oogway (a very old turtle). As a collective, Shifu and the Five make it a point to let him know. Shifu does everything in his power to discourage him and make him quit. Promising his other students that the panda would quit "or I have failed you all."
Po just doesn't fit in. He doesn't know Kung-fu. He is chided, by Tigress, for thinking that everything "is a joke." Mostly, he's misunderstood because he doesn't fit their picture of what the Dragon Warrior should be. The two biggest issues seem to be that he's clumsy and he's a panda.
In the end, we find out that being himself: good humored and a panda are what really bring him success in the final showdown with the bad guy.
I enjoy this movie. I enjoyed watching it with my kids and listening to them laugh. The animation is fantastic, the voice acting is really quite excellent. I'm a bit surprised at how little dialogue they gave Jackie Chan after all the advertising of him being cast as "Master Monkey" and I don't think voice acting is Jolie's strong suit. But really, those are small points against the movie. If you don't like martial art movies, you might not like this one, but you might be surprised.
There are two lessons to be learned in the movie. Or at least two lessons I can see and tell my kids. I might be the only one to see them. And that's okay.
The first lesson: Be Yourself.
Po, wanted to be "not himself" because he didn't see himself as having much worth. He was comparing himself to The Furious Five who had trained and trained and trained. Whereas, he had not. Po also didn't quite fit in with his dad's noodle dream.
The things that Shifu and the Five didn't like about him, were exactly what he needed to be and have, in order for the final showdown against the bad guy.
Po is given a "Dragon Scroll". The scroll is thought to contain powers that would enable the "Dragon Warrior" to be great. The Professor informed me that this is a nod to some other Kung Fu movies - but it works in this one, too.
Po opens the scroll and sees -- himself. Immediately, They all think it's blank. They think that Oogway really was crazy and mistaken to choose Po as the "Dragon Warrior"
Until his dad tells him the secret to his Secret ingredient soup. There is no secret ingredient.
Po realizes that all he has to do, to fight the bad guy, is to be himself.
At the end, Tai Lung tells Po: "You can't beat me, you're a big, fat panda!"
Po, embracing all that he is says, "Wrong. I'm THE. big. fat. panda."
All he had to do was be himself. This is much the same with God. Me for example...He gave me my quirks. My personality (like it or leave it). My desire to learn, to write.. He's put more desires in my heart - but I don't have to be like someone else in order to do these things. I don't have to be like others that have gone before me. And what's more, others should not expect me to be something I'm not.
To get the job done, I just need to be myself.
I really identify with Po.
I can be a klutz...
I eat when I'm stressed.
I don't fit the mold.
Who knew I was a panda?
Lesson #2 -- There is no secret ingredient. At least, it's not a secret.
There is a secret ingredient in me. But it's really not a secret. More like a partner...and that's Holy Spirit. Without Him, His presence, guidance, teachings, nudgings, I would not be who, what, where I am now.
So, while I talk about (and thoroughly enjoy) the movie's main theme, I have to point this out to the kids. We have to have Holy Spirit in us.
Being ourselves combined with the power and direction of Holy Spirit gives us such potential. We offer what we are and what we have to God and we are capable of fighting the scariest of snow leopards - or whatever else bad guy comes our way.