Before I get to the meat and potatoes (noodles and dumplings) of this article, I want to point out something truly amazing about Kung Fu Panda. It is a kids film, with a fat, over-eating hero, forced often into bizarre and contortionist body positions. It is a film where said over-eating is latterly claimed as a positive part of the pandas Kung Fu style. And yet at no point does this film ever deploy either a sing burp or fart in its comedy ARSEnal. Indeed it is frightening the degree of scatological humour there is in cinema that I was shocked by its absence. Kung Fu Panda is a sweet, clean piece of goodness which manages to also be hyper-violent and beautiful to look at.

I don’t mind a bit of fart humour really, but it is everywhere like a bad smell. And frankly casting Jack Black, a man who is never backwards in pushing himself for the baser laugh, seemed like a bad sign. But, with perhaps the exception of the overuse of the word “awesome” Black manages to completely vanish into the role of Po the gentle, kung-fu fanboy panda. It helps obviously that he is just doing the voice and a CGI panda has been employed for the job. It also helps frankly because the majority of the fighting moves in the film would kill the average man, let alone a panda. Even a Kung Fu Panda.

Oddly the filmS that KFP reminded me most of was Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle. Mainly because like Stephen Chow’s films, Fung Fu Panda is remarkably affectionate towards its source material. Kung Fu Panda loves kung fu movies, and imagines what you could do with the limitless camera sweeps and make it up as you go along physics of CGI. And yet the rules it follows are strict. The Furious Five are all named for well known (certainly in wuxia films) kung fu styles: Tiger, Crane, Mantis, Monkey and Viper schools. The ponderous grand master is a turtle, and one assumes only the demands of a child audience stopped there being a drunken master sequence.

There is however a fantastically inventive tour de force sequence of training where the panda and his master fight over a dumpling. It is very Jackie Chan, very Stephen Chow and both funny and audaciously staged. And every now and then you think “How did they do that?” and only after a few seconds do you realise that its CGI, and they can do what they like. But directing well, that is a different thing all together (here it is, er, in French as i couldn’t find an English version).

If you like Kung Fu films, this film honours them, rather than as I feared, takes the piss. That said, they really should have taken a leaf out of Shaolin Soccer’s book and used the Bus Stop version of Kung Fu fighting, instead of this strangely neutered (and rewritten without funky Chinamen) version by Rain.

And put it like this, it is not SPACE CHIMPS. I don’t know why I can embrace the idea of Kung Fu Panda, while the idea of Space Chimps fills me with horror. But it does.