March 23, 2009


"There is no charge for awesomeness. Or attractiveness." Jack Black does awesome and attractive voicing of this loveable, out of shape, noodilicious bear. There I was, thoroughly enjoying all the martial antics and Asian flavor of the movie when--Hi-YAH! (big, furry, black-and-white, rolly-polly spoiler alert)--the long-awaited contents of the practically sacred Dragon Scroll were revealed and they were...EMPTY! "There's nothing." Yes, folks, everything behind everything in this movie is nothing. As I look back at it, perhaps it was a Zen joke, but, as Randy Newman sings in the "Monk" theme song: "I could be wrong now, but I don't think so."

AFTER seeing nothing in the scroll, the Kung Fu Panda (who is the messiah-figure Dragon Warrior) sees himself. It's important that it happened in that order. A big deal is made of the fact that there is NOTHING. Then it reverts back to the Panda to reach down inside of himself and find his own strength and courage and whatnot. So, why did the Panda win out over the much more powerful Tiger-dude (who also saw the empty Dragon Scroll and believed mightily in himself)? This is not explained. There is a Kantian (unfounded) assumption here that goodness is somehow preferable. (The good-hearted Panda.) That goodness wins. That people want to be good. But if nothing's where it's at, why be good?

However, I had a revelation of SOMETHING. Earlier in the movie the cute old tortoise wisdom-figure keeps saying: "Believe! Believe!" This staple catchphrase of Hollywood feel-good movies has long irked me. Everyone from Tinkerbell to Polar Express to Elf to Prince of Egypt* uses it. Just what the hey are we believing in??? And if "KFP" is speaking for the rest of the tinseltown fare, it IS nothing!

Pretty nihilism. The whole discipline of Kung Fu and the master-student is empty. We ARE alone in the universe. Nothing is "special." "It's only special if you say it is, treat it like it is" (KFP's Dad). Nothing has intrinsic value and meaning, only the value and meaning we give it. Oh dear, oh dear.

Please hear me out. I am NOT one of those watchdogs who see subversive images and messages in every Disney animated flick. But a constant repetition of this message, or rather non-message, this omission of God, the natural law and the integrity of each thing that presents itself to us, does go into little minds. If God is so great, why can't we talk about Him? At least hint at Him? I'll never forget the kid in my mother's third grade CCD class: "If Jesus is so great, how come he's not in my history book?"

There's something very deliberate in the faithlessness of "KFP" (lack of faith in ANYTHING). Perhaps the "law of attraction" and "positive thinking" was at work here, and maybe my ignorance of the mindset required in the martial arts is coloring my understanding of "KFP" (e.g., maybe if you THINK you can break a stack of 2 x 4's with your noggin, you can). Or perhaps it's the "nothingness" of Buddhism that's suddenly being presented to KFP and his companions (who didn't seem to be aware of it before). I could be wrong now, but I don't think so.


God is not really a character in "Prince of Egypt." It's more of a nationalistic movie.


  1. Anonymous12:06 AM

    Or maybe it's just a cartoon? I'm never one to trumpet Disney's merits(or lack thereof), but, the depth in which you review this animated film is disingenuous. Since God IS in all, then even an empty movie that promotes good winning should be seen as a positive light.

    Thankfully, we have Jesus, our Saints, and our clergy to help us delve deeper into faith.

    Don't assign that role to to some animators and corporate hacks.

  2. Anonymous1:21 PM

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  3. Like I said, I don't normally look that deeply into a Disney film, or rather, when I do, they're just fine. "KFP" jumped out at me in its blatantcy (word?). I really wasn't expecting it, but it was soooo clear.
    God/Truth can be illuminated by contrast, it is true, provided one knows the truth first.
    I do not look to Hollywood for sermons or role models, but I do read the ingredients on all my eye candy. :]

  4. Also, I don't believe in "just a movie." Movies are big business for a reason. Millions watch them, and studies have shown that when we are entertained we most easily assimilate. Every plot point is very, very carefully constructed. Take it from one who knows (1 1/2 years at UCLA slaving over screenplays--my own and others')!

  5. Pat O1:05 AM

    I gotta disagree with you , Sister. One need not know truth first in order to see truth. That is absurd, really. The whole point of knowing God is in the journey; we don't discover in a vacuum. We are tested, and we stumble, and, if all goes right, we finally get it. Can you cite the studies you are referencing regarding assimilation? I would be curious to read them.

    You would be hard pressed to find many, let alone ,any, children who have seen KFP and embrace emptiness and faithlessness. Perhaps in your 1 1/2 years of "slaving over screenplays" you were not influenced by EVERTYHING you read?

  6. Anonymous4:49 PM

    Pat O,
    I don't think it's right to say that God IS in all, not in this thread... To me, everything depends on God, in this case the 'empty' movie depends on God for it's goodness perhaps. What Sr. Burns was pointing out was a grave error in thought, namely nihilism. I'm 20 years old, and I must admit , I had been influenced slightly by the themes in this movie (including 'emptiness').
    But because I knew about nihilism I quickly recovered. What about the ignorant kids, I have good reason to believe, that they get influenced by these movies, especially this one.
    Granted hollywood promotes a lot of truths, but we must hold fast to what is good and 'convert' the rest.

  7. Anonymous1:14 AM

    KUNG FU PANDA movie is really very interesting movie...This is a animated movie.....II love the character of Po who is lazy and working in the noodle restuarant of his father.I Download kung fu panda movie last night

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