The Screening Room
furious five
I was supposed to review "Secrets of the Furious Five" when "Kung Fu Panda" came out in November on home video. Yet, I got caught up in other reviews that I'd forgotten to review this disc as I intended to do. So dear readers, I apologize for my error and I shall try to fix it. 

"Secrets of the Furious Five" is now available on DVD as a supplimental disc to the feature, "Kung Fu Panda."

As I remarked in my review of the Blu-ray of "KFP," I mentioned how much I enjoyed the opening sequence in that film. I admired the "traditional" method of telling its story in 2-D. The animation was remarkable and had a fresh look. My inner wish has been granted because "Furious Five" takes the traditional animation approach and sets out to tell a nice tale.

Po (Jack Black) shows little kung fu bunny students the art of using the martial art for good, rather than destroying someone's face. Though the short (divided into five segments featuring the "Furious Five") talks down a bit to children and adults, the charm and story catches you. Running only 24-minutes, the featurette is completely engaging on repeat viewings.

The standout element, at least to my eyes, is the animation. Blending 2-D with Chinese painting influence gives "Furious Five" a unique look. I liked how the animators gave the characters depth with the use of shading and rounded forms. The animation also gives the characters wonderful eye and facial expressions. I've often found DreamWorks Animation to be a bit cold and unfeeling, but "Furious Five" has warmth.

The beginning and end of "Furious Five" has Po and Master Shifu in their own computer animation 3-D environment. It's interesting to see the differences in computer 3-D and so-called traditional animation here. The 3-D animation is excellent in the world of "Kung Fu Panda," but I preferred the 2-D look. Animation is an illusion of life, but traditional animation seems more realistic and I connect with it more. Perhaps it's the warmth of the drawings or the texturized look of the animals in "Furious Five," but I wished that "Kung Fu Panda" took that traditional approach for it's animation. This would've made an already spectacular film even more so.

Since "Furious Five" is short, so is this review. The movie is delightful, though a bit childish in how it presents the five segments. Underneath it all are messages (not too heavy handed) about patience, courage, disipline, compassion, and confidence.   
Bill Kallay

Photos: DreamWorks/Paramount. All rights reserved.
DVD Quick Glimpse


Good short cartoon featurette

Director: Raman Hui  

Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman

"Do You Know Kung Fu?" games, and more

Not rated

Picture: Excellent
Sound: Very Good

Awesome traditional-style animation

Aspect Ratio (1.78:1)

Dolby Digital 5.1

November 9, 2008
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