My experience with the first Kung Fu Panda has a sentimental story behind it. When one of my students was departing for good from the daycare I was working in, his goodbye gift was a brand new DVD copy of his favorite movie, Kung Fu Panda. I watched instantly when I got home, and I fell in love with the story of Po (voiced by Jack Black), the underdog (err…underpanda?) who had a dream and went on to achieve it, becoming the dragon warrior alongside the furious five. When I heard news of a sequel hitting the silver screen, doubt filled me, but I heard good things and I gave it a shot.
When we meet up with Po and co. again we learn of a new threat; a peacock named Shen (voiced by a very snidely sounding Gary Oldman) an heir to the throne of Gongmen City, becomes hungry for power and his parents send him away. He returns to his homeland with plans to overtake China using a powerful weapon in the shape of cannon. In the process, however, Shen’s invention is also going to be utilized to wipe out Kung Fu forever. Po, Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen) Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross) set off to find Shen and destroy his work. However, in his travels, Po envisions small memories of his mother, and begins to question his actual origin. We learn through the film that Po was actually adopted by his father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), a duck. Shocking, right?! With Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) telling Po he must earn inner peace, the bear must realize and figure out his own inner turmoil in order to be ready for Shen. While I won’t reveal much more as to spoil the plot, there is a final shot in the film that sets up for a possible third entry in the franchise.
If a threequel gets greenlit, I would be all for it. The original Kung Fu Panda was a lot of fun, and the sequel is no slouch. The fighting sequences are quick but well choreographed, using a lot of close up and wide angle shots to always keep it moving. The computer generated scenery is absolute gorgeous, and in the same vein the opening animated sequence (which is like a Chinese puppet show), as well as the traditionally animated bits are very beautiful. On that note, I saw the film in 2-D, and I would honestly believe this is the way to see this movie, devoid of headaches or eye rubbing. I feel that 3-D would taint the vibrant colors and lush animated environments this film has to offer, so if you do see it, be wise (as master Shifu would be) to know that.
The movie had made me chuckle every now and again, and it heavily relies on slapstick gags which are either hit or miss. Yes, there are fat jokes at Po’s expense, and the running gag does get old, but there are jokes made by other characters that should have the audience members (whether child or adult) grinning. The movie has a fair balance of humor and while there are no real side splitting moments, the movie has some very silly bis the best being when Po and the furious five are roaming around town in a bug like costume.
The only real complaint about Kung Fu Panda 2 is that even with a run time of an hour and thirty five minutes, it does feel longer than that. The gang meets up with Shen earlier than one might think and the rest of the movie does its best to keep the action going. It succeeds for the most part, but there is one scene near the end, which, for the sake of character development, is needed, but it kind of stops the movie dead. The final fight sequence definitely kicks start the engine again though, and the aforementioned cliff hanger (if you like these kind of movies, which I do) will definitely have you going “Oh come on (but in a good way).”
With that said, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a sequel that definitely is a lot of fun. The furious five and their panda pal kick all kinds of fuzzy behind, there are laughs to be had, the score is engaging, and the animation is quite lovely. As a person who wasn’t expecting a sequel, and continued to think the worst of it until I heard otherwise, Kung Fu Panda 2, like its predecessor, was a pleasant surprise. I am happy to report that all my negative thoughts of this movie were put to rest post viewing.
And all I can say regarding that is: