DVD Review Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five
Directed by: Raman Hui Cast (voice): Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman Time: 30 min for the movie, 60 + min for the extras Rating: PG
Plot: Master Shifu asks Po to teach a group of youngsters that Kung Fu isn’t just about kicking butt and taking names. To illustrate the point, Po tells the kids the story behind Mantis, Crane, Tigress, Viper, and Monkey.
Who’s It For? If you’re younger than 13, you should be a fan of the original Kung Fu Panda, otherwise you’ll probably be bored. However, this DVD is phenomenal for children.
Movie: The animation is as wonderful as it was in the original KFP (Kung Fu Panda for the cool kids) with all the back-story and flash backs painted in the same colorful, calligraphic style as the first movie’s opening sequence. The filmmakers also brought back enough of the original voice talent to make it work (Black, Hoffman, Cross, Kim); the other actors are MIA (Jolie, Rogen, Lui), but the characters themselves are younger and therefore the movie gets away with using different voices.
Jack Black brings back Po in all his round, squishy, good-hearted glory, but the bulk of the story is experienced through Black’s narration. The fans will be bummed that their time with Po and Shifu is limited, but it’s still nice to steal a few more minutes with the characters you loved from Kung Fu Panda.
Movie Score: 6/10
Po’s Power Play: I was really expecting something rather thrown together, designed to milk more money out of consumers, but they really packed this little sucker full of fun kid’s games—in other words: I stand corrected. In Po’s Power Play, kids can learn how to draw all of their favorite KFP characters, try their hand at Dumpling Shuffle (I rocked it), and play some video game demos and access printables from their PC.
Panda Land: You can learn a spirited, step-by-step dance that incorporates all of the fighting styles of the Furious Five in “Panda Dance,” and the CD allows you to choose certain characters and actually teaches you basic martial arts technique. Kids can learn both fighting and defensive stances from Monkey (“You’re encouraged to act like a real monkey”) Tigress (“This style is recommended if you’re fast, agile, and strong”), Viper, Crane, and Mantis. If you pick the “Po” style it’s explained that there is no “panda style” in martial arts history, but anyone and everyone can learn martial arts (Ala Po being more along the lines of rolly polly than streamlined and graceful).
Inside the Chinese Zodiac: This section introduces the concept of the Chinese Zodiac and then lets the viewer find out the specifications of their personal animal. You can select that animal’s traits, the animals they get along with, and who to avoid. The DVD really feels like an educational product in a very interactive way—I think youngsters will really have a blast with this addition.
Extras Score: 9/10
I am pleasantly surprised with Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five, because, again, I expected something taped together to trick us into spending our money. The stories behind the Furious Five emphasize that the essence of Kung Fu isn’t fighting, but patience, control, compassion, confidence, and courage and they get their point across without patronizing anyone. The movie stays loyal to the nobility behind Kung Fu while dishing out a few more exhilarating, speed-o’-light fight scenes (most notably between Mantis and a group of crocodile bandits).
But honestly, if that were all the DVD offered, I wouldn’t bother. It’s as enjoyable as an episode of Spongebob Squarepants, so why spend the money? This really is a choice collection of games, dances, and education for kids and it feels like the producers put a lot of thought into delivering a quality product to their audience—something I don’t run into that often. If you have kids, you will have an absolutely wonderful time doing the activities with them and in that way, this DVD is well worth it.
Final Score: 9/10