Who expected “Kung Fu Panda” to be as charming as it was? Dreamworks had a shaky history of 3-D films that were big on star power and small on substance, but one barely noticed all the celebrity voices in between the tightly polished jokes and immaculate animation. Especially fun was how the movie paid righteous tribute to kung fu tradition, from the deftly choreographed fight scenes to the standard character types like the wise guru, the hot-headed proteges and of course, poor clueless Po.
Po whipped himself into fighting shape by film’s end, and the upcoming sequel will see where he’s gone since. But how would he stack up against characters from kung fu lore? Fighting films used to be huge in American pop culture, but faded out as guns and gratuitous violence went en vogue. Here’s where we think he’d end up in a battle royale against some of history’s greatest kung fu fighters, reality aside (because, um, talking panda bears don’t exist).
“Enter the Dragon’s” Lee (played by Bruce Lee)
The granddaddy of all kung-fu legends, Bruce Lee was a legend in two hemispheres and the eternal image of how a fighter should look. Lee is chiseled, trained, and focused as hell, and “Enter the Dragon” is a deliriously exciting film that captures his kung fu physique in glorious slo-mo. On the other hand, Po is a bear, and bears are big (this could be a problem). But no way does Bruce Lee give up–have you even heard him yell “Hi-yah!”?
“The Karate Kid’s” Daniel (played by Ralph Macchio)
Daniel is all heart but middling skill, unfortunately. He gets punked on the beach pretty easily, and while his game is good enough to make him the coolest kid in Reseda, there’s no way his piddly arms could do anything against a big ole bear. Them’s the breaks, Daniel-san.
“Rush Hour’s” Inspector Lee (played by Jackie Chan)
Jackie Chan was less physical by the time he really became a huge star in America, but that didn’t make him any less entertaining in “Rush Hour.” As the old saying goes, give him a broom, a trash can, and a deboned chicken and you’ve got yourself a fight scene. The possibilities between him and Po fighting in a restaurant? Endless! Inspector Lee is just as jovial as Po but about half as flexible, so I can’t see him lasting too long. He’d probably concede quickly and take him out for karaoke.
“Kung Fu Hustle’s” Sing (played by Stephen Chow)
Here’s a real contender: a goofy guy like Po with the physical demeanor to take it and dish it. Sing’s strong enough to knock craters into the earth, and he recovers from his injuries faster than any regular man. So what’s a panda to do? Sing and Po are all business in a fight and equally creative. But Po can be hurt — you just have to outsmart him, which no one in “Kung Fu Panda” could do. I’m sure that given enough time, Sing could figure out a way to knock him to the moon (maybe literally!).
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s” Li Mu Bai (played by Chow Yun Fat)
Li Mu Bai has a wicked sword and can fly. Apologies to Po, but he has neither. But Bai also isn’t the confrontational type, and he’d probably find Po’s silliness more amusing than annoying. They’d probably poke at each other until some kind of draw where Bai would go off to meditate.