Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kung Fu Panda

Grade: A

This may be Dreamworks’ best animated feature. It had the perfect combination of voice talent, script, cutting edge animation, humor, action, and emotion. I thoroughly enjoyed the film from beginning to end.

The chubby panda Po (Jack Black) works in the family noodle shop, but has dreams of acheiving kung fu glory with the five masters in the Jade Palace. In a twist of fate, Po is chosen to become the next “dragon warrior” charged with the high task of defeating a masterful enemy, despite his martial ineptitude. Sifu, the renowned kung fu instructor voiced by Dustin Hoffman, is equally skeptical of the unimpressive Po. Will he be able to defeat the ultimate enemy and save the village from destuction?

My children were totally enthralled for the entire 91 minutes, and I was too. The laughs are genuine, and the story has a great mix of comedy, cartoon martial arts action, and deeper themes for the adult watchers. It has something for everyone. I highly recommend Kung Fu Panda. It is rated PG for martial arts action and some scary images of the villainous snow leopard.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Grade: B

The famous book series "The Chronicles of Narnia," by C.S. Lewis, holds a special place in my heart. These stories found me during a critical and formative period of my life and have directly and indirectly shaped much of who I am. That is why I was very worried about “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” worried that the filmmakers wouldn’t do it justice. I was pleasantly surprised. It was fantastic! So I went in to “Prince Caspian,” the sequel, with high hopes.

Overall, I enjoyed the film. It was fast paced and full of action. The acting was good enough. The special effects were pretty good (most of the time). And I liked some of the artistic license taken with facets of the story. But for some reason, which I can’t quite put my finger on, it lacked a little something. Perhaps the feeling comes from the fact that it is targeting kids. Or perhaps it is because the messianic message of The Wardrobe is tough to top.

The story begins in Narnia when an orphaned prince, Caspian, must flee the castle for his life soon after his power-hungry uncle fathers a son. At this point in Narnian history, the magic has all but gone extinct, including the plethora of magical creatures, exiled to folktales and myth. The story begins in our world when the four siblings Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan are once again magically whisked into Narnia. Although only 1 year has passed for them, 1,300 years have passed in Narnia. They must team up with the exiled Prince Caspian to once again fight a powerful enemy, bring freedom to the endangered Narnians, and restore the land to its fullness of magic and splendor.

As I said, overall I enjoyed it. The action/adventure was good and the story is great. They did a pretty good job with it. Despite my reservations, I do recommend it, especially if you liked the first one. If you have not seen the first one, however, you will be totally confused because it jumps right back into the story. It is rated PG for peril and battle scenes. There is a lot of killing, but no blood. It might be a little too scary for younger kids.