MOVIE REVIEW- Thunder-ready?: The fat and the furious

a still from this week's film"Jack Black would smoke no crack..."

Then what accounts for his manic energy, his comedy-on-steroids approach unseen since Robin Williams' heyday? As Williams energized Disney's Aladdin, Black's voice work enlivens Kung Fu Panda; but this time the visuals are more than equal to the challenge, faster and furiouser than Black's tongue. You've never seen an animated feature maintain this kind of pace.

Steve WarrenThe images change from two to three dimensions when Po wakes up and goes to work in the noodle restaurant he's expected to take over from his father one day. His father, incidentally, is a duck– a visual gag that's never explained.

Amid all the karate kiddin' around, the Mr. Miyagi duties are split between Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). Shifu handles the practical training while Oogway is a prophet who speaks like Yoda reading fortune cookies. ("Let go of the illusion of control.")

Having had a vision that Tai Lung (Ian McShane) is returning from prison to take vengeance on the village, it's up to Oogway to name the Dragon Warrior who will defend them, with the help of "unlimited power" granted by the mysterious Dragon Scroll.

The most likely candidates are Shifu's students, the Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross); Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan); but they somehow lose out to Po, who must then be given a lifetime of training in a day or two.

Po might be described kindly as a klutzy fat slob, but Shifu finds the key to motivating him: food. "I eat when I'm upset," Po explains when caught in a pantry raid. A chopstick duel during training is one of the film's highlights.

It's amazing what eating from the Sacred Peach Tree of Heavenly Wisdom and not bathing in the Pool of Sacred Tears can accomplish. Po becomes a worthy op-Po-nent to mete out Po-etic justice to Tai Lung. As for the Dragon Scroll, that's kind of an inside joke that may teach the kids not to believe in hype.

The script is serviceable but not the movie's strong point. See Kung Fu Panda for its visuals, which take animation to a new level. If it's guilty of panda-ing to kids with ADD, the "A" stands for "Animation."

As Po says, "Get ready for the thunder!"