Review: 'Legend of a Rabbit' is impossible to enjoy
Part of my fate in the fandom seems to involve finding bad foreign animated films. Granted, most folks in the fandom couldn't be bothered to know about them anyway, but if I can stop even a handful of people from wasting their time, that's a good thing. So: Don't bother watching Legend of a Rabbit (trailer).
After DreamWorks released Kung Fu Panda in 2008, the high production quality – especially its attention to cultural details – caused a bit of a jealous and nationalistic stir within the Chinese government. Why had China not managed to keep pace with Western animation?
Three years, $18 million and several hundred animators later, the Beijing Film Academy and Tianjin Film Studio came up with Legend of a Rabbit (Tu Xia Chuan Qi). And it's terrible.
Before Shifu dies, he stumbles into the film's main character: a large, clumsy, stupid rabbit named Tu. He gives Tu the film's MacGuffin, a small tablet that authenticates the leadership of the Academy, and tells him to deliver it to Peony. He also mystically transfers all of his kung fu into the rabbit. Tu abandons his job as a maker of fried cakes (his only talent) to search for Peony, but utterly forgets about being given kung fu powers, despite the whirling golden lights and everything else from the mystical transfer experience. Yes, he is an Idiot.
Meanwhile, Biggie has found Peony, and they're on their way back to the city. Along the way, they rescue Tu from two bandits. When they introduce themselves, Tu mistakenly thinks Peony's name is "Pony" — and retains this misconception for most of the film, stretching the use of the Idiot Ball to such an extent that it's impossible to laugh or suspend your disbelief. The rest of the film... do I have to write about this?
Tu gets tricked into becoming kitchen staff at the Academy, but his clumsiness gets him banned from the kitchen, leaving him to deliver and wash dishes. Peony and Biggie sneak in to gather intel and confront Slash, who injures Peony, so she hides in an old temple while Tu brings her food and water and helps her recover. Slash's minions follow Tu and capture him, while Peony gets away.
Finally, Slash holds a martial arts competition to prove how great he is to all the other masters, which he thinks will help him take over the world or something, but gets his ass handed to him by Peony and Tu. Tu returns to his humble life making fried cakes.
So much of this film relies on Tu being an idiot that it's really impossible to enjoy. Shifu has to show up in his dreams twice to make him understand that he's got kung fu powers, even after they've belatedly begun to subconsciously manifest. Then there's Biggie, an ugly little braggart and smart-ass with less appeal than the Asian kid in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Slash is an intimidating bad guy – obviously just a big bully, but a dangerous one who's quite willing to instantly poison or kill any opposition. And what a coincidence, the antagonist is a panda! Well, a polar bear who's painted himself to look like a panda. Several people point out how silly it looks over the course of the film.
Peony is the only sympathetic character. She's skilled and smart, and in the tradition of wuxia films, her martial arts powers allow her to jump and fly incredible distances. Peony is... either a fox or a cat? Her tail is never seen, so I'm guessing a cat, based solely on her nose being pink. Given that Shifu is a monkey, I'm wondering if the father-daughter thing is something symbolic that got lost in translation.
The animation, visual design, and secondary characters leave much to be desired. China is a long way away from producing anything as good as DreamWorks' animation, and the contrived plot didn't help.
Writing more about this film would really be a waste of my time, so I'm not going to. Let's move on!