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With Jack Black’s name above the title, KUNG FU PANDA ($40) wasn’t the joke heavy animated film I was expecting. In fact, KUNG FU PANDA is a movie with a great deal of heart that tells a thoughtful story with a whole lot of good humor. Additionally, KUNG FU PANDA features a lot of strong characterization that enhances some of the most incredibly beautiful CGI animation that Dreamworks has ever brought to the table. I found myself marveling at almost every aspect of this delightful film. KUNG FU PANDA is indeed a treasure.

Set in ancient China, in the Valley of Peace, KUNG FU PANDA tells the story of a somewhat bumbling panda, with a tendency to over-eat named Po (voiced by Black), who aspires to be a kung fu master, yet works in a noodle restaurant owned by his adoptive goose father Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong). In the nearby Kung Fu temple, the tortoise Master Oogway (voiced by Randall Duk Kim) has foresees that the evil snow leopard warrior Tai Lung (Ian McShane) will break free from his bonds and return to decimate the Valley of Peace.

To stand against Tai Lung, Master Oogway has announced a ceremony to choose the Dragon Warrior, a Kung Fu Master, who will be able to defeat the snow leopard. Everyone assumes that Oogway will select one of the Kung Fu Warriors known as Furious Five, whose members include Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie), Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan), Mantis (voiced by Seth Rogen), Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu), and Crane (voiced by David Cross). However a confluence of events leads Master Oogway to select Po as the Dragon Warrior- much to the dismay of Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), who will have to train this clumsy, out of shape noodle chef. The vocal talent behind also features Dan Fogler, Michael Clarke Duncan and Wayne Knight.

Dreamworks Home Entertainment has made KUNG FU PANDA available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. The 1080p presentation is utterly gorgeous and worthy of a place at the very top of the demo disc pile. This is a phenomenal looking high definition release that delivers one of the one of crispest, clearest and best defined CGI images out there. Colors are rich, vivid, deeply saturated and completely stable. Blacks are absolutely perfect, whites are pure and the image has the kind of smooth contrast that can only be created in the digital realm. Coming off the digital files, there is neither grain nor visual imperfections in the image.

KUNG FU PANDA is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This is a fairly marvelous soundtrack that is aggressive and highly directional, as well as having comic moments of lively humorous sound effects. Additionally, the track is quite atmospheric and filled with little sounds that help complete its sonic environments. Fidelity is top of the line, producing a rich musical component, in addition to convincing sound effects. The bass channel is deep and percussive- adding weight to Kung Fu blows as well as all the necessary rumble that the track requires. Voices have a warm, natural quality, plus the film’s dialogue is always completely understandable. French, Spanish and Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

Animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne. The Animator’s Corner provides a picture-in-picture Video Commentary that is augmented with additional pop-up supplements (requires a Profile 1.1 player). HD Featurettes include the following programs: Pushing The Boundaries (seven minutes), Meet The Cast (thirteen minutes), Conservation International: Help Save Wild Pandas (two minutes), Do You Kung Fu? (twenty-four minutes), Sound Design (four minutes), Mr. Ping’s Noodle House (five minutes), How To Use Chopsticks (three minutes) and Animals Of Kung Fu Panda (six minutes). Other supplements include Po’s Power Play (games), Inside The Chinese Zodiac (what’s your sign) and What Fighting Style Are You? (quiz). A Music Video for the song Kung Fu Fighting by Cee-Lo, a DreamWorks Animation Jukebox, Preview Trailers for other Dreamworks animated titles close out the standard supplements. KUNG FU PANDA is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player).

As I stated above KUNG FU PANDA is indeed a treasure. The Blu-ray presentation is absolutely fantastic and is worthy of a place of honor at the top of the pile demonstration discs. Absolutely recommended.



Kung Fu Panda [Blu-ray] (2008)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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