Kung Fu Panda: This Kung fu couch potato is a hit!

Filed under: Big Kids, Tweens, Activities: Babies, Media, That's Entertainment

After filling my kids up with mall spaghetti (which they claim is better than my own), burning through a $5 gift certificate (won at a raffle) at the arcade, and making at least two potty stops, I realized that, boy, has Friday night date night ever changed. Then I went -- family in tow -- to see Kung Fu Panda.

I would have loved to interview the boys who sat behind me for this review, because they literally howled with laughter through at least 3/4 of the movie. They weren't alone. Kung Fu Panda is pure comedy, as affable Po -- a giant Giant Panda -- finds himself quickly moving up in the world from son of a noodle maker to Dragon Warrior.

Let me make one thing clear -- there would be no Kung Fu Panda without Jack Black. Whether the creators, the directors, the animators, whoever is responsible for building Po around Black's personality and personal gestures, well, they're geniuses.He shines through not only with his own hilarious, bumbling humor, but he makes Po a friendly, approachable protagonist that kids will instantly relate to. Not only will kids adore Po, but they'll also enjoy the simple messages behind the movie: Don't give up, believe in yourself, live for today.

The basic premise of the movie is that Po is an everyday Joe who adores Kung fu, especially the Furious Five -- Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross), and Mantis (Seth Rogan) -- who train with Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman).

When Oogway, the ancient turtle master, predicts that bad guy snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane) will escape from prison, the Furious Five compete to find out who will become the Dragon Warrior and bring peace to the valley. Po, who simply wants to get in to see the contest, finds himself landing instead in the center of it and being named Dragon Warrior.

The second half of the movie is all about fighting. This is where the PG rating comes in . Though I can tell that directors John Stevenson and Mark Osborne were careful to make the scary parts not too scary (the rhinos who guard the prison are dark and mean looking, but soft and round around the edges), let's face it: This is a Kung fu spoof -- there's plenty of action and most of it is (awesomely animated) hand-to-hand combat. The prison scenes and the fight between Shifu and the homicidal Tai Lung are especially dark. But beyond those, many of the fight scenes are actually pretty comical, especially the last one.

My three-year-old was quickly overwhelmed (and then fell asleep), and my five-year-old lost interest once the fighting began. These parts could be scary for kids under six, so be warned. The boys who sat behind us, however, who seemed be be between 8 and 10 years old? Could. Not. Get. Enough.

But beyond that, there was little else in the movie that I thought was inappropriate for children of any age. It was good, clean fun from start to finish. Beautifully animated in bright, bold colors, well-researched, well-written, and definitely well-acted, Kung Fu Panda is sure to delight kids for a long, long time to come.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.