There have been times (Nacho Libre, Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny and Be Kind Rewind, for example) when Jack Black has effortlessly gone over the top and delivered cartoon-like performances.
Here, seemingly uncurbed by directors John Stevenson, Mark Osborne and Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger’s simple slapstick-oriented screenplay, his vocal characterisation of the overweight clumsy protagonist of this cheerful animated comedy is infectiously funny.
His voice perfectly suits the simplistic story of obese would-be kung fu hero, Po. He is inadvertently propelled from servitude in his father’s noodle shop to chosen saviour of his Chinese village from the evil (and surprisingly scary) Snow Leopard, aptly voiced by Ian McShane.
He unexpectedly rises to fame when, while attempting to watch the ceremony to anoint the chosen Dragon Warrior, Po accidentally enters the ritual and is named Dragon Warrior himself.
“There are no accidents,” proclaims serene turtle Master Oogway, handing Po over to miniature panda Master Shifu (memorably voiced by Dustin Hoffman) to be trained in kung fu, most entertainingly in a comic sequence where master and his ever-hungry pupil duel over dumplings. State-of-the-art animation more than compensates for the simplistic storyline.
Po’s father is a duck. (His mother never appears, probably for the best since it is impossible in Darwinian terms to figure out what she could have been to produce a Panda from a liaison with a duck.)
That conundrum apart, kids should enjoy the zany comic misadventures of a roly-poly furry hero who modestly says of himself, “There is no charge for awesomeness or attractiveness.”