With so many different entertainment options out there for your children, we at PopcornBiz thought we'd take a moment each week to dissect one piece of family entertainment strictly from a parent's perspective, so that you know what parts are appropriate for your loved ones, and which are not. This week's COVER YOUR EYES subject: “Kung Fu Panda.”
The Oscars are on Sunday night, and Dreamworks' "Kung Fu Panda 2" is nominated in the Best Animated Film category, a race it will probably lose to "Rango" or the two arty animated flicks that were also nominated. As animated franchises go, "Kung Fu Panda" is a sneakily successful one. The first one raked in over $200 million here in the US, and its sequel grossed over half a BILLION dollars worldwide. The franchise also spawned a Nick Jr. show, "Kung Fu Panda: Legends Of Awesomeness," that I dare say lives up to the standards of the film franchise. I find it among the most tolerable of Nick Jr. shows, and that's saying a lot. So with the all that in mind, I thought I'd look back on the original movie to see if it's okay for you and the kiddies to watch at home. Let's consider a few factors:
The “Will Parents Be Able To Tolerate It?” Factor: Yes. I'd put the first "Kung Fu Panda" right up there with the middle tier of Pixar movies. It's wayyyyy better than "Cars" and "Cars 2", lacking their irritating antic energy which will send your kids into a sugar tantrum. BONUS: "Kung Fu Panda" holds up on repeat viewings, which is so very important, given that kids like watching the same movie over and over and over again. I never ever complain when my kid wants to watch this movie again. When they want to watch "Treasure Buddies" for the sixth time? ANGUISH.
The Dead Parent Factor: Po (voiced by Jack Black) was raised by a duck. You never hear about what happened to his biological parents, and I doubt your kid will bother to inquire. To them, a duck spawning a bear is perfectly natural. However, there is the matter of Master Oogway's death. Oogway is the ancient tortoise who deems Po to be the Dragon Warrior, and then passes away in front of Po shortly thereafter. This is a nicely handled scene, and the writers and animators clearly put a lot of care and thought into it. I think this was the first time my kid saw a movie character die on screen, and it piqued her curiosity in a good way. It opened up a whole conversation about death and old age that didn't feel awkward or morbid. Thanks, KFP! You raised my kid for me!
The Sexy Sex Sex Factor: Zero. Even with Angelina Jolie voicing the Tigress.
The Scare Factor: Healthy. Tai Lung (Ian McShane) is quite the formidable villain, and the scene where he's shown shackled in prison and opens his eyes in the dark could be quite frightening for a very small child.
The Violence Factor: Lots of fighting and slapsticky mayhem, but all of it is bloodless. You'll have to decide if you want your kids chop-sticking each other to death over the last dumpling. "YOU ARE FREE TO EAT."
The Racism Factor: Zero. All of the Asian elements in this movie are handled with a great deal of sensitivity. No played up pidgin English or grotesque stereotypes. But that "He Will Wok You" ad for the sequel? RAYCESS!
Age Range: 4 and up.