By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
In 2008, the first Kung Fu Panda movie was a pleasant surprise for moviegoers. Jack Black made the character his own with a unique brand of comedy and heart. Kung Fu Panda 2 is better than the original, mixing in humor, action and beauty with a mature story that will appeal to kids of all ages.
The Dragon Warrior Po is still attempting to get everything figured out. Under the guidance of Master Shifu and the Furious Five, Po combats his inner demons when a villain from his past, Lord Shen, returns to China. Po must learn the power of inner peace before Lord Shen tears his country apart.
Kung Fu Panda 2 works because it does not stray too far from the source material. All the pieces that made the first film work are there. The humor is retained, as is the setting of Asia. In many ways, the film draws striking similarities to the first film, but it is in the small plot devices that the film becomes great.
The second film features Po’s past, and the tragedies that he experienced as a child. It is more of a character piece, as Lord Shen returns, the point of emphasis for the discource Po experienced. As the film progresses, the memories of the event continue to startle Po, and those moments and flashbacks are among the strongest in the film, handled stylistically and beautifully by the film’s artists.
Although the film’s plot line can be seen as easily darker than that of the first, Kung Fu Panda 2 still manages to keep a high degree of fun inside of the film. Whereas the first film was about Po discovering his destiny as the Dragon Warrior, the second film features Po finding himself, as well as the difficulties and reprecussions of undertaking such a task.
Jack Black returns as Po and does a great job of maintaining the character. He doesn’t overdo it, keeping the same voices and personality that the character had in the first film.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is carried by its supporting cast. All the characters, from Master Shifu, played by Dustin Hoffman, to Mantis, the comic relief played by Seth Rogen, are strong and have their moments throughout. In Kung Fu Panda 2 nearly all the primary characters have their chance to stand in the limelight.
The action in Kung Fu Panda 2 far surpasses the original. The visuals in the film are beautiful, and the action scenes are far better than anyone could have anticipated. The final 40-50 minutes are pure action, and drive that portion of the film to its conclusion, which is one of the coolest Kung Fu endings in quite some time.
Although the plot is strong, the subject matter is intense. Be sure to keep a close eye for the kids in case this part is a little too much for them. Also, the film is in 3D, and I would heavily advise seeing it that way. The film has many opportunities for 3D greatness and takes advantage of its possibilities, making a great film.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is another great Dreamworks Animation film. With films such as How to Train Your Dragon and now the Kung Fu Panda series, Dreamworks is now a big game player in the animated picture category. Although it is pretty intense, Kung Fu Panda 2 mixes in humor, heart and action to create a film that is entertaining for all ages. This Panda sets the standard for animated movies in 2011.