Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

reviewed by
Homer Yen

"Kung Fu Panda 2" - Basic Training Is Over but I Wish It Wasn't
by Homer Yen
(c) 2011

Po the Panda's (voiced by Jack Black) general sense of ineptness-followed-by-catharsis gave the original "Kung Fu Panda" a humorous charm. I enjoyed how his deer-in-the-headlights demeanor gave his final showdown an added amount of wit. Do you remember how the villain chided the Dragon Warrior (a.k.a. Kung Fu Panda) by questioning if he was going to sit on him as part of his hand-to-hand style of combat? And, then as they fought each other and tumbled down a seemingly endless staircase, Panda did indeed wind up surreptitiously and funnily sitting on the villains face? He fumbled and bumbled his way to victory in a sort of Jackie-Chan-meets-Inspector-Clouseau style. It was a mix of heart and dumb luck and the film's setups supported Po the Panda's comeuppance perfectly.

There are still the wisecracks and the one-liners and Jack Black's personality gives our plush, warrior-panda a vulnerable side that all heroes need. But the fish-out-of-water comedy, which made the first one more enjoyable, doesn't happen here. Po is now the Dragon Warrior, defender of the meek and even the last beacon of hope for the Kung Fu art. The art is being threatened by a menacing peacock name Shen (voiced by the always evil-sounding Gary Oldman) whose plume shoots daggers and whose claws are reinforced with metallic blades. Po is on a kick-butt special ops mission to find him and is at the same time in search for inner peace. Finding inner peace, according to his mentor, ShiFu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), is his next big step in his development. And, that's not very interesting because I say if you've got it, then flaunt it! However, part 2 does tackle the biggest question that viewers had from the 2008 original film. How can Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong), who is a goose, be the father of a Panda? Sure, anything can happen in the world of animation. But the writers must have read all of the fan mail and they cleverly came up with a dark story about Po's past which is ultimately connected with China's precarious present and future. Indeed, Shen has developed an incredible weapon and Panda and the Furious Five (Monkey/Jackie Chan, Tigress/Angelina Jolie, Mantis/Seth Rogen, Viper/Lucy Liu and Crane/David Cross) and the rest of China cannot withstand its mechanical firepower.

The overall teamwork in confronting Shen is evident here amongst the six warriors as it was interesting to see Po leap off of cliffs with Crane helping him to successfully land and Snake assisting Po with g-force turns when he is pursuing an enemy. And, there's a clever and well-directed scene where the six of them sneak through town in a gigantic dragon costume and dispose of opposing guards in a very funny way. This is primarily an action film that offers some goofiness for the kids, offers brilliant animation quality throughout, and offers an undercooked tale of redemption for the adults.

Thus, "Kung Fu Panda 2" satisfies but doesn't quite capture the playful allure of the original. Here's a storyline that deserved more attention and more character development and more payback. Forget about the catch-phrase "Skadoosh." This is the kind of set-up where it deserved to end with a "yippe-kay-ay, mother ******."

Grade:        B
S:         0 out of 3
L:        0 out of 3
V:        1 out of 3
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