There is a special place in the ephemera of pop culture for catchphrases. Maybe they’re a construct of the times, maybe an escape from them. One hundred years ago it was “23 Skidoo.”
Today it could be Sheldon Coopers “Bazinga!,” Rowley Jefferson’s “Zoo-Wee-Mama!” or Po’s “Skadoosh!” which is what Jack Black’s Kung Fu Panda says when the wannabe-master is about to inflict the Wuxi Finger Hold on an adversary as he did in the original 2008 DreamWorks film, its 2011 sequel and this third installment, which roundhouse-kicked Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass at the box-office.
The whole Panda cast is back — Po’s suffering teacher Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), his hysterical adoptive father Ping (Minneapolis native James Hong, best known as the host in the Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant”), and the Furious Five, voiced by Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, and Jackie Chan.
This go-round finds Po on the cusp of greatness when the legendary Warlord of China Kai (J. K. Simmons) does away with Grand Master Oogway then goes after Po, whom Oogway designated the Dragon Warrior, fulfilling a 500-year prophesy.
Po is oblivious to all of this when he returns to the noodle shop one afternoon and finds a panda (Bryan Cranston) who claims to be his long-lost father with whom he returns to his ancestral village to learn chi, their only hope to save the valley from Kai. Welcomed there as a hero, now he has to deliver. Cue the music (see sidebar).
Nothing complex here and that’s OK. Sometimes you just want to sit back and take a break from the intense rescue drama and heavy-themed movie offerings. “Panda” is that prescription. Its story is light though optimistic, the animation is creative (particularly the stylized water-color flashbacks), and the humor … the humor plays it safe, too safe for my taste. It takes no chances and consequently, except for Kate Hudson’s wonderful ribbon dancer, has little crossover appeal. Parents won’t quite be bored, but neither will they be Pixar-like wowed. This one is targeted to younger audiences.
A can’t-miss cast, a veteran animation studio and a demonstrated franchise. Better than average, yet somehow left me feeling that some choice ingredients were overpowered by too much Worcestershire sauce in the stew.
Everybody was, is, and forever will be ‘Kung Fu Fighting’
Catchphrases come and go, even phat and gnarly ones. But get a tune in your head and that’s forever. Singer Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting” topped the pop charts in 1974 and has been a recognizable prelude to the cinematic opening of a can of whoop-ass ever since. Here are just a few of the films to employ the song:
“City of God”
“Daddy Day Care”
“Beverly Hills Ninja”
“This Is Elvis”
“Kung Fu Panda,” “Kung Fu Panda 2,” and a cover version of it here in “Kung Fu Panda 3”
“Rush Hour 3”
Readers: What’s your favorite martial arts film?
Chris Miksanek is a Rochester freelance writer.