When animals attack ... again

Kung Fu Panda 2

on May 24, 2011 by Todd Gilchrist
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kungfupanda2review.pngThis summer's rampant sequelitis notwithstanding, DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda 2 is a follow-up that you will enjoy watching. Director Jennifer Yuh reunites the original film's core group of battling beasts for a new adventure that finds Po discovering his origins as his own parental issues play into the ambitions of an all-new adversary. As family-friendly counterprogramming to The Hangover, the film should perform strongly at the box office, and then enjoy a long and healthy life on home video where it will no doubt be endlessly played by parents looking for something that will occupy their kids while keeping themselves sane.

After being officially christened the Dragon Warrior at the end of the first Kung Fu Panda, Po (Jack Black) has acclimated easily to the responsibilities of guarding the Valley of Peace, especially since he's supported by the talents of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross). But when his father Mr. Ping (James Hong) reveals that Po was adopted—that explains why dad was a goose—the panda embarks on a journey to find his real parents. Meanwhile, the Valley of Peace is threatened by the formidable new villain Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), panda-hating white peacock using a newfangled Chinese invention called gunpowder to blow to smithereens his own father issues, not to mention anyone who stands in his way.

Compared to rival studio Pixar, DreamWorks tends to emphasize pop culture punch lines over long-term payoffs. (They finally started to pull away from this trend with How to Train Your Dragon.) The remarkable thing about Kung Fu Panda 2 is that Yuh and her screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger mostly avoid the jokey, modern references that disconnect audiences from the film's ancient locale. That said, with dry and self-parodying comedians like Black, Rogen and Cross in control of these characters, the film nevertheless manages to take some of the stuffing out of the oddly serious plot, although never at the expense of genuinely evocative drama—the best moment is when an emboldened Po vows he'll defeat Lord Shen’s armies, but his foes are so far away that they can't actually hear his threat.

While the movie indirectly satirizes the sometimes-troubling biology of animated families (despite having a goose dad, the news that Po was adopted still plays as a shock), it never undercuts the emotional weight of Po's journey, and the relationship between the father and son is touching. Representing the dark side of Po's parental conflicts, Lord Shen is convincing as a hatchling who resented his mother and father and decided to take out his frustrations on the rest of the world. But this super-villain motivation seems designed more for parents than their animation-loving progeny, and thankfully the film is too fun to stay seated on the therapist's couch.

While the movie indirectly satirizes the sometimes-troubling biology of animated families (despite having a goose dad, the news that Po was adopted still plays as a shock), it never undercuts the emotional weight of Po's journey, and the relationship between the father and son is touching. Representing the dark side of Po's parental conflicts, Lord Shen is convincing as a hatchling who resented his mother and father and decided to take out his frustrations on the rest of the world. But this super-villain motivation seems designed more for parents than their animation-loving progeny, and thankfully the film is too fun to stay seated on the therapist's couch.

But we're really here to see a panda punch a wolf, and like in the first film, the fighting is top-notch. Details in the animation—the attention DreamWorks has paid to the fur and wings and metals and fabrics—give the characters real dimensionality, even if the 3D fails to do much to enhance the experience. (It's more of a technical add-on than added-value entertainment.) Adults will find themselves hard-pressed not to shed a few tears as Po recognizes the value of his feathered father while learning the truth about his real family, and the interstitial storytelling is creative more than cliché. A fun and surprisingly affecting little adventure, Kung Fu Panda 2 ranks among the best films DreamWorks has ever done, and should be among the shortlist of this summer's winners.

Distributor: Dreamworks Animation/ Paramount Pictures
Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, James Hong, Gary Oldman, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh, Dennis Haysbert, Danny McBride, Victor Garber
Director: Jennifer Yuh
Screenwriters: Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger
Producers: Melissa Cobb
Genre: Animation
Rating: PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence.
Running Time: 90 min.
Release Date: May 26, 2011

 

Tags: Melissa Cobb, Glenn Berger, Jonathan Aibel, Jennifer Yuh, Victor Garber, Danny McBride, Dennis Haysbert, Michelle Yeoh, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Gary Oldman, James Hong, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Black
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2 Comments

  • adamouariti1 on 04 June 2011

    Worst movie ever

  • astrangersmyth on 21 September 2011

    Awsome and funny movie! I thought it was better then the original! Shocking cast add on's, "Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Croc!" and "Gary Oldman as Lord Shin". they did really great with their voice overs!

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