US Release Date: 05-26-2011
Directed by: Jennifer Yuh
- Jack Black, as
- Po (voice)
- Angelina Jolie, as
- Tigress (voice)
- Gary Oldman, as
- Lord Shen (voice)
- Seth Rogen, as
- Mantis (voice)
- Michelle Yeoh, as
- The Soothsayer (voice)
- Jackie Chan, as
- Monkey (voice)
- Dustin Hoffman, as
- Shifu (voice)
- David Cross, as
- Crane (voice)
- Lucy Liu, as
- Viper (voice)
- Jean-Claude Van Damme, as
- Master Croc (voice)
- Dennis Haysbert, as
- Master Oxen (voice)
- Victor Garber, as
- Master Thundering Rhino (voice)
- James Hong, as
- Mr. Ping (voice)
- Paul Mazursky as
- Musician Bunny (voice)
Jack Black returns as Po in Kung Fu Panda 2
I wasn't very impressed with the original Kung Fu Panda. It was enjoyable enough, but I didn't love it and pretty much expected to feel the same way about this the sequel. I mean, sequels are inferior by nature, right? Not always apparently, as I ended up enjoying this installment much more than the first.
The first film told the story of Po, the panda (voiced by Jack Black), and his quest to become the Dragon Warrior. When this movie begins he is already well established in the role, but is told by his Kung Fu master, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman in a much reduced part), that to reach the next level Po must find inner-peace.
One question that was left open from the first movie was about Po's heritage. He was raised by a goose for reasons that were hinted at, but never revealed. Turns out that the villain of this film, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), was told a prophecy that he would one day die at the hands of a black and white warrior, which he took to mean a panda. To try and stop this from happening, Shen tried to kill every panda in the land, including those in Po's village. Po was hidden by his mother and managed to survive. For Po to find his inner-peace, he must confront his past and Lord Shen, who is trying to conquer all of China.
I recently watched Jack Black's Gulliver's Travels and found myself thinking that the character Black plays in every film is wearing a bit thin. Maybe it's more to do with the writing than Black though, as here I once again found him likable and funny. His Po is the emotional center of the film. Once more he's the likable loser that you really want to succeed.
As in the first movie, the celebrity studded cast is wasted. Angelina Jolie and Seth Rogen manage to put some personality into their small parts, but David Cross, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu barely have ten lines between them. Dustin Hoffman's part is reduced as well, but he still plays an important role.
Lately I've been completely put out by 3-D films where the 3-D adds nothing to the movie except $5 to the price tag, but here it is actually well done and I would recommend seeing it that way. There's a lot of action packed into the story and the 3-D really helps show it off. There's one scene in particular where a tower is destroyed with our heroes inside it that is quite spectacular. The animation itself is likewise well done.
This is a fun and fast paced story that just breezes by. It's not a laugh-a-second kind of comedy, but there are some laugh-out-loud moments. My particular favorite joke is near the end when Po challenges Shen, but misjudges how well his voice will carry.
The end of the movie sets up the definite possibility for another sequel and this time, I'm actually looking forward to seeing it.
Po and friends to the rescue.
As my son and I left the theater, he said that when Po makes a dramatic re-appearance after everyone else thought he was dead, Po should have said, "I am the Kung Fu Panda." instead of what he actually said, "I am Po." I thought the exact same thing. This is by no means a slam on Kung Fu Panda 2. In fact, the opposite is true. We both enjoyed the movie and were caught up in it to the point that we were anticipating the dialogue. That only happens in films you enjoy.
As Scott wrote, Kung Fu Panda 2 is not the funniest of films. How funny can it be after Po learns what happened to his parents and how he came to be raised by a goose. It still has it's moments though. I liked the dragon costume that ate wolves and crapped them out.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is far more of an action tale. Having had all the characters established in the first films allows for a quicker segue into the main thrust of the story, that of Po and friends doing battle with a peacock wanting to take over the country. This leads to many fights and action sequences. I saw this in 2D, but still enjoyed the tower collapsing scene.
The story of how Po came to be raised by a goose is right out of the Bible. You can see shades of Jesus's and Moses's childhood in Po's. I am not sure if this was the intent of screenwriting partners Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, (King of the Hill) but it is there none-the-less. As Patrick wrote in his Kung Fu Panda review, "...there are only a handful of stories. (in the world)"
Considering that I watched this with my son, who seems to be growing up so fast, I was touched by the scene where Po is reunited with his father. They hug and tell the other that they love them. I gotta love a movie that makes me feel sappy inside.
An adorable baby Po in Kung Fu Panda 2.
Eric, Po’s back-story reminded you of Jesus or Moses. For me it brought to mind another prophet - Harry Potter; particularly during the flashback where Po’s mother places him in the basket full of turnips before sacrificing herself to ensure his survival from Lord Voldemort – oops I mean Lord Shen. I also concur that this installment gets to the action quicker than the first movie and is faster paced. (By the way I agree with my nephew that “I am the Kung Fu Panda!” is a dramatically better line than “I am Po!”)
That said, unlike my brothers I enjoyed the first Kung Fu Panda more. It was fresher and had an air of originality that is – by definition - lacking from sequels. I am so tired of Hollywood drawing water from the same well time after time. And the ending, as Scott pointed out, all but guarantees a third entry in the franchise.
Kung Fu Panda was also funnier than Kung Fu Panda 2. Too often the humor is subjugated to the needs of the more action driven story. I still enjoyed the scenes between Po and his father goose. I laughed when Po shockingly discovers that (gasp) he’s adopted. Like Eric I found their reunion at the end to be affecting in a sappy cartoon sort of way. I missed the interaction between Shifu and Po, as Dustin Hoffman and Jack Black were a great comic duo in the first movie.
I think my main problem with Kung Fu Panda 2 is that I don’t watch animated movies for their action sequences. I want the three H’s from them; Humor, Harmony and Heart. The classic Walt Disney cartoons understood this. They were funny, featured memorable songs and always included at least one heart-tugging moment. Of those three ingredients Kung Fu Panda 2 only successfully incorporates the third. It has heart but is light on laughs and completely song free. The characters are still likable, the voice work fine, the animation cleverly done and the story swiftly paced. And yet – probably due to how much I enjoyed the first movie - I was still slightly disappointed.
Photos © Copyright Dreamworks Animation (2011)