SYNOPSIS: One day, a dying Sifu flees from the Imperial City to a small village. He is found by a humble farmhouse cook named Tu who, at the request of the dying Sifu, must return a very important Kung Fu Academy Tablet to the Sifu's daughter Moli in the Imperial City. Never having been to the city, Tu already gets off to a dangerous start - the old master and his daughter have gone missing! But to keep his promise, Tu has no choice but to stay in the Academy to wait for their return. He's bullied from day one for knowing no kung fu. But serving as a cook there, he picks up some kung fu as the days go by. He meets a mysterious girl (Moli) who identifies herself as Moyan to protect her safety. Tu doesn't know that this girl is the one he's supposed to pass the tablet to. After many misunderstandings, they are finally able to connect - but not before the big bad villain Slash decides to kill Moli and Tu for intervening with his evil plan to take over the entire China.
The question here is what if. What if “Kung Fu Rabbit” comes before Kung Fu Panda? What if “Kung Fu Rabbit” is the official spin-off from the DreamWorks’ franchise? Will it then receive a more stellar response from the general audience?
At the glance of it, “Kung Fu Rabbit” indeed has a lot of similarities to “Kung Fu Panda”. Instead of a rotund panda, we have a rotund rabbit who incidentally finds himself in the pugilist world after stumbling upon a dying master in front of his door step. The innocent rabbit named Tu (Rabbit in Chinese) is entrusted by the master to pass his Kung Fu Academy tablet to his only daughter, Peony who has left to join the circus. But before he breathed his last breath, the master transferred part of his energy and kung fu to Tu whose only speciality skill at this point is making fried cakes.
The story here is very much predictable, just like a typical martial-arts movie, the main villain, Slash is the one who caused the death of the master and usurp his throne to the Academy and it’s up to Peony and Tu to revenge his death. Despite the digestible running time of 90 minutes, most of the gags and humour fails to entertain and one prolonged segment involving two fumbling robbers at the start sticks out like a sore thumb. Even The voice talents which include Fan Wei voicing Tu, Yan Ni (A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop) for Poeny and veteran Zhang Feng Yi (Red Cliff) lending his villainess to Slash sounds a tad boring.
This US$18 million production from Tianjin, China overall boasts acceptable CG animation values while obviously still a long way to go comparing to a Hollywood production, this one is definitely notches above our local CG production, “Zodiac: The Race Begins”. The quality of the CG characters and backgrounds are pretty uneven and detailing such as animal fur, clothing are sparse and flat.
Yet “Kung Fu Rabbit” is not a total disaster at the end of the day. There are at least a few noteworthy sequences that are at least watchable, one involving Tu doing his graceful routine of cakes frying and a fight sequence which ends with Peony and her sidekick, a tiny rabbit named Biggie escaping on a hang glider. Director Sun Lijin even ropes in a Taiji master for the kung fu choreography for authenticity purposes and the score done by Hong Konger Peter Kam is as good as the one Hans Zimmer did for the Kung Fu franchise.
Given more technological resources and dialogues that needs further polishing; “Kung Fu Rabbit” would have achieved better results. Never mind the filmmakers even tried to take a dig at Kung Fu Panda by making Slash a bear disguising as a panda!
The DVD comes with a trailer and a photo gallery.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is a bit underwhelming during the action sequences and fortunately with the inclusion of English and Chinese subtitles, you won’t be lost amid the heavy Chinese accents. Picture quality is acceptable.
DVD RATING :
Review by Linus Tee