The original Kung Fu Panda was a very pleasant surprise. Very few other computer animated movies that weren’t made by PIXAR could captivate an audience as well, emotionally. It was cute. But now that we know what to expect, could the creators of the original rise to the bar that they set? In a word, yes.
They do so by raising the stakes across the board. In the first film, Po had to unlock his own potential to stop a power hungry foe. In this film he has to deal with his real identity and repressed memories from his childhood, in order to stop a vengeful enemy who has found a weapon that can defeat kung fu. In the first film, it was Po’s village that was in immediate danger. Now, all of China will be lost to this angry villain if Po cannot succeed.
If that sounds particularly intense, that’s because it is. And, if anything, that is the biggest criticism against the film, from this reviewer. It’s not for small kids. This movie carries the same bright, energetic action and animation and humor, but it also has stronger violence and darker scenes. However, it’s been three years since the release of the original. Those kids who saw the first movie then, should be old enough to handle this movie now.
That said, there really is a lot to love about Kung Fu Panda 2. The best of which, is the script. It’s bigger. It encompasses backstory and real character development, colliding story-lines, and a number of genuinely moving moments.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is visually arresting too. Of course it still looks like Kung Fu Panda, but the good ideas in that first movie become fully realized in the second. The fights are more energetic and creatively choreographed. The chase scenes are intricate and well plotted. The movie mixes it well rendered CGI with some interesting hand drawn animation to make a turning point in the film especially beautiful.
But this isn’t an art film. It hasn’t suddenly started taking itself seriously. To the contrary, this movie keeps things light and is as full of humor as the previous film.
Kung Fu Panda 2 isn’t a perfect movie. There are a few jokes that feel forced and one that gets a laugh for the wrong reason. But they’re one liners that go away fast. There are one or two moments where Po is actually annoying instead of endearing. Overall however, Kung Fu Panda 2 is just very well crafted and executed.
The director of this movie is named Jennifer Yuh Nelson. This is her first turn at directing a full animated Hollywood picture from a major studio. To be sure, she did work on the first film with many of the same crew members. Here, her ability to expand on the original, and her sure-handed imagining of this tale makes this sequel a very pleasant surprise. Grade: A
Dreamworks Animation/Paramount Pictures presents: “KUNG FU PANDA 2″. Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson. Written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogan, David Cross. Rated “PG” for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence.