Once again, it's a weekend battle of head-to-head stars. In this corner, we have the animated antics of Jack Black in the family-friendly martial arts epic, Kung Fu Panda. And in this corner we have the over-the-top comic stylings of Adam Sandler in the counter-programming extravaganza that is You Don't Mess with the Zohan. You know the rules. Let's drop the cage. Two men enter! One man leaves!
In the box office this weekend: Winner - Black. The kids are out of school (or about to be) and this summer is in desperate need of some PG-rated animated fare, voiced by big-name talents. Enter Jack Black, with Hollywood's hottest talents in tow, starring in what appears to be a classic kung fu training film blended with Pixar-style characters and comedy. And it's going against what? An Adam Sandler-helmed film about an Israeli soldier who wants to be a hairdresser? With Rob Schneider playing a terrorist? Terrorist humor? In an election year? I'm betting on the Panda.
In the critical arena: Winner - Black. Sandler has long been the whipping boy of modern critics, with his crass humor never appealing to the high-brow crowd. It looked for a while like he was moving towards being a critical darling, but now he's back to his old tricks. Kung Fu Panda, on the other hand, gives a lot of critics their chance to pull out and dust off their extensive history-of-kung-fu lectures. And that will make many critics -- especially the internet critics -- very happy indeed. By the way, did I mention my reviews of the new Shaw Brothers classic Come Drink with Me and Heroes of the East?
In their careers: Winner - Sandler. Although Black has been in more immortal, critically acclaimed films, Sandler had a classic run on SNL and has forged an incredibly prominent comedy production house with Happy Madison Productions. The guy is a strong force behind the scenes, and he may in fact be on a comeback swing with the recent announcement that he's in former roommate Judd Apatow's new flick. This round goes to the Sandler.
In a fight: Winner - Huh? Okay, wait. Give me a minute. Let me catch my breath. I'm not saying these guys can't fight, because they are after all dudes. But I find it hard to imagine either of them in a fight that doesn't involve rolling around on the floor, trying to rip on in each others face while yelling "Say it! Say uncle!" I just can't.
Winner - Black. Summer animated kids film about kung fu equals what we on the internet call "Full of Win."