IT'S NO secret that computer-animated films are phenomenally big business in Hollywood.
The hype surrounding up coming releases can seem relentless as toys, clothing and computer games are often shoved down consumers' throats before the film itself is even in cinemas. Pixar's Cars, the follow up to The Incredibles, was a prime example of saturating the market with an unbelievable amount of merchandise. But the film was an incredibly bland affair, which proved to be far from a classic.
Not even big-name actors can necessarily save a film from falling flat. DreamWorks Animation's Madagascar proved that.
Although Cars and Madagascar were not as entertaining as previous outings from both companies, each still grossed mega amounts of money at the box office.
So, it's inevitable that Kung Fu Panda will be a smash. But thankfully, it will be a success for all the right reasons.
The instant you hear Jack Black's voice bellowing out of main character Po the panda, you instantly warm to him and can't help but smile at his clumsy, nonchalant ways.
Po is a lazy, gentle giant who works in his father's noodle bar, but he dreams of being a kung fu master, and idolises the Furious Five, who are Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Lui).
One of the Furious Five will be chosen as Dragon Warrior to defeat the evil, exiled Tai Lung (Ian McShane).
Po cannot contain himself when the Valley of Peace comes together for the unveiling of the Dragon Warrior. In a moment of apparent clarity, Oogway (old master tortoise, Randall Duk Kim) chooses Po as the Dragon Warrior, instead of one of the Furious Five, much to the annoyance of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), the Furious Five's trainer.
Having had a clear passion for food all of his life and no kung fu training at all, Po's appointment as Dragon Warrior baffles everyone, but Shifu reluctantly takes Po under his wing.
As computer-animated films are aimed at family audiences, it can sometimes prove difficult to balance out comedic values for children and adults. So it's refreshing when the film doesn't stoop to toilet humour and pop culture references to draw the laughs. Kung Fu Panda works wonders at uniting all ages of film fans. It's a rare spectacle for a film to make adults and children laugh in unison throughout.
We see Po grow into a graceful kung fu expert, despite his initial shunning by the Furious Five and the people of the Valley of Peace. All of his training is put to the test when Tai Lung escapes from prison and returns to the Valley to take control.
What ensues is a battle of the titans. The yin and yang of the kung fu spectrum meet to determine who is the rightful master to hold the Dragon Warrior title.
Visually, the film is a triumph, from the 2D Chinese shadow puppetry opening credits, to the enormous energy from the martial art action sequences. There is no doubt that this will be the film of the summer.