Kung Fu Panda 2 continues the story of Po (Jack Black), but this time he must save China from a new villain with a devastating weapon. Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) is a peacock with a vendetta, determined on fighting an ancient prophecy and taking over the country. Po and The Furious Five set out on a quest to stop Shen and destroy the weapon. I mean, the main plot of this movie is pretty plain, but the origin story of Po keeps you interested. Kung Fu Panda 2 delves deeper into Po’s origin by tying Shen directly to the past of Po. It’s good to see a kids’ movie sequel that isn’t just another pointless adventure with no reason for being. Sadly, The Furious Five seem to have an even smaller role than in the first film, each character only getting a handful of lines.
Kung Fu Panda 2tops the all-star cast of the first film, adding even more notable names into the mix. Dennis Haysbert makes a new addition to the Kung Fu masters, Danny McBride continues his trend of being in almost every current movie made and Jean-Claude Van Damme…well, he’s in the movie. I’m hesitant to comment on him because I’m not certain if my viewing audience was too loud or if he just had a quiet role. I saw the crocodile’s mouth moving, but heard nothing. So, hurray for JCVD? Aside from that, the voice acting is top notch. The actors add a layer of emotion onto the dialogue, combining with the fantastic animation of their CGI characters. The actors also succeeded in hitting the humor in their lines perfectly, nailing the awkward pauses and stutters.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is setting a great example for the difference between a kids’ movie and a family movie. There are plenty of fun chase scenes, flashes, bangs and pretty visuals to entertain the kids too little to understand the plot, while parents will pick up on the quick jokes in the dialogue and the situational humor. Kung Fu Panda 2 really does bring something for everyone in the family. This is one movie that you can take your kids to and actually enjoy it as much as them.
The CGI is terrific, with individual hairs and scales on the characters. Also, Kung Fu Panda 2 gives another great example of how 3D should be used. There are no cheap thrills with the 3D, its simply used to give depth to the shots. I’m not certain if I’ve seen a live-action 3D movie that has impressed me as much as the kids’ movies have. While there was a small amount of blending CGI and animation in the first film, they beef that up for the sequel. Most of the flashback scenes are fully animated, as well as numerous CGI scenes with animation snuck into reflections and mirrors. I really enjoyed the cinematic feel that these animated portions gave, especially during the flashes to Po’s childhood.
The soundtrack also got a bit of a tune up, although it wasn’t extremely noticeable. Most of the music is what you would expect, traditional Chinese music blended in with modern orchestra, but I was very happy to hear some campy 70’s kung fu music in a few scenes. Not to mention, in one of the first few battles, they made the music entirely come from the battle itself. Sword clinks, people falling into drums and punching sounds make the tunes for the scene. Small touches like this are really going to differentiate Kung Fu Panda 2 from the other family flicks this summer.
While it may not have all of the charm of the first, Kung Fu Panda 2 keeps the series going with genuinely funny dialogue, a knock out cast and fantastic visuals to match. When it comes to sequels for kids’ movies, it can be easy to throw something together in order to make money. Thankfully, Dreamworks brought their A game to the table and makes a fun, enjoyable family movie. Considering that there was a jab towards a trilogy, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a solid step in the series.
I give Kung Fu Panda 2 4 “Kung Fu Radishes” out of 5