Film » Screens

Jack Black’s Kung Fu Panda is fun, but it’s got no kick


Po the panda is voiced by — and shaped like — Jack Black.
  • Po the panda is voiced by — and shaped like — Jack Black.

By all means, gather up the little ones and take them to this perfectly pleasant, very good-looking, modestly funny movie. But be forewarned: It's a dispiritingly unoriginal variant on the nerd-with-a-dream recipe that's been clobbered to death in animated films for at least a decade now.

Hectic as ever, Jack Black voices Po, a potbellied panda who's stuck making noodles with Dad, even though he lives and breathes kung fu trivia and longs to become a Master. (For reasons that escape me, Dad is a goose, voiced by James Hong.)

The call comes from a pint-size Zen guru voiced by Dustin Hoffman, under whose grumpy tutelage Po and five other trainee critters with famous voices band together to save the world from a disgruntled snow leopard, handled by Ian McShane.

The movie's design is striking, the colors are gorgeous, and the fight sequences are pretty suave — but the adorability quotient is set a little high for this jaded palate. And is there a child around the movie-going globe who couldn't lip-synch by now the smug sloganeering about following your bliss, playing to your strengths, and learning to be a mensch in good times and bad?

Department of small mercies: For once, the moral voice comes more out of Buddhism than the Protestant work ethic. So we're looking at a smash hit in Marin County and Dharamsala.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.