Kung Fu Panda

By all means, gather up the little ones and take them to this perfectly pleasant, very good-looking, modestly funny, dispiritingly unoriginal 2008 variant on the nerd-with-a-dream recipe that’s been clobbered to death in animated films for at least a decade now. Hectic as ever, Jack Black voices Po, a pot-bellied panda who’s stuck making noodles with dad (a goose—for reasons that escape me—voiced by James Hong), even though he lives and breathes kung fu trivia and longs to become a Master. The call comes from Dustin Hoffman as a pint-sized Zen guru, under whose grumpy tutelage Po and five other trainee critters with famous voices band together to save the world from a disgruntled snow leopard (Ian McShane). The movie’s design is striking, the colors are gorgeous, and the fight sequences are pretty suave—but the adorability quotient is set a little high for this jaded palate. And is there a child around the movie-going globe who couldn’t lip-sync by now the smug sloganeering about following your bliss, playing to your strengths, and learning to be a mensch in good times and bad? Department of small mercies: For once, the moral voice comes more out of Buddhism than the Protestant work ethic. (Screened outdoors at dusk.) (PG) ELLA TAYLOR

Sat., Aug. 8, 9 p.m., 2009

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