Notable Cast (Voice): Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Lucy Liu
Rating: If you watch zero TV during the day and don’t follow any movie news blogs…surprise! Kung Fu Panda 2 came out this weekend! Thankfully I was prepared due to obsessively frequent checking of my go to movie info sites, but outside of that I can’t say I saw more then one or two Kung Fu Panda 2 TV spots. Sure, I don’t usually pop on the boob tube till about 10PM or later, but I’m still a demographic. I may not be the key child demographic, but I still enjoy the genre if done right! I thought the advertising could have been ramped up a little more, but that’s here nor there. The bigger point is DreamWorks is starting to really hook the Pixar vibe mixing story, heart, and entertainment. Kung Fu Panda 2 delves warmly into the back story of panda sensation Po, but simultaneously gives us a rip-roaring martial arts extravaganza even Jackie Chan can be proud of. Doesn’t quite beat DreamWork’s best film in How To Train Your Dragon, but still is an amazing watch in its own right.
Alright, to the story. Kung Fu Panda 2 delves into the back story of Po’s (Black) upbringing, while also dealing with his future as a kung fu hero. At this point, Po is the Dragon Warrior, still seeking teachings from Master Shifu (Hoffman), but is also reminded of his past from new foe Shen (Oldman). In the newest installment, not only is it up to Po to lead the most elite kung fu warriors in the world, but he must also discover the true origin of his upbringing. Surely a panda cannot be born from a noodle making duck, so Po must connect with his inner peace in order to uncover the one true fact about his life. But can Po keep his curiosity in check and protect the innocent from Shen’s dangerous new weaponry long enough to uncover his own secrets later? Or will he let his new curiosity consume him and cloud his vision, losing his clout in the Furious Five.
Kung Fu Panda was a film dedicated much more to the silly nature of the story, including more of the childish sight gags and silly animated humor. I loved the fact that Kung Fu Panda 2 stepped up from this child like manner at parts and asserted a much more mature viewing experience, and I respected how well it worked keeping those same childish antics in tact. Don’t get me wrong, the original is a fun slapstick comedy about a clumsy panda who is destined to become the greatest kung fu warrior, and made a hell of an animated film. But Kung Fu Panda 2 put such an effort into the back story of Po as an adorable lil’ panda that it jerks at your emotions. The film was incredibly deep and had many layers, and opted to substitute some of the silliness from the first film for heartfelt moments between Po and his “father” or re-living Po’s childhood. It’s a strong, well written story in the sense of Pixar, where you’re given a blend of powerful storytelling and entertaining comedy in one brilliant package. Look back to Gnomeo and Juliet and you’ll see a great example of a film that just gets stuck on the silly. If that’s the angle you’re going for, you limit your target audience just to young children. Kung Fu Panda 2 gets beyond the silly, and as a result can be enjoyed by audiences alike, but can also be regarded as a high quality FILM, not just a “good children’s movie.” But don’t think because I’m focusing on the story the humor has totally left. Kung Fu Panda 2 delivers all the humor that the first did with ease, still giving us our beloved fat panda jokes. Thanks Dreamworks!
But the story wasn’t the only thing that surprised me. Kung Fu Panda 2 has some glorious fight scenes, really channeling the martial arts films of old. Except instead of Bruce Lee, you get a big fat panda voiced by Jack Black. You could tell the creators of Kung Fu Panda 2 did their best research for the fight sequences because the atmosphere was always set perfectly. There was always a lot of high-flying acrobatic moves mixed with fast paced action, all brought together by a fantastic choreography that made everything flow in one cohesive group. Everyone moved in sync instead of watching Po fight in one corner, Tigress fight in another…and so on and so on. The action of Kung Fu Panda 2 was beautiful and frequent, being the delicious icing on an already tasty cake.
Children (and college kids with an immature sense of humor who write movie blogs) will love Kung Fu Panda 2 because it’s about a panda bear who does karate. Adults will love it because it’s another example of a stereotyped children’s film that strives to deliver on a whole other level. Eh, screw it. Everyone will love Kung Fu Panda 2 because it’s about animals doing freakin’ martial arts. Everything about this sequel is better than the first. It improves on an already impressive voice cast by adding the likes of Gary Oldman, Danny McBride, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. The action gets an adrenaline boost that makes it one of the more impressive parts of the film. The story not only intrigues, but it tugs at your emotions and hits you all the way to your core. The list goes on. Po will kung fu you into a gleeful submission, then sweetly win you over with his goofy charm. In the battle of Panda versus The Wolfpack (The Hangover: Part II opened this weekend too), this is surely the year of the panda. I laughed harder, was more engrossed, and just flat-out cared more about the panda. And with a sure set up for a third film, I couldn’t be happier. Looks like we’ll be seeing Po’s jiggly body sometime soon again. Ska-doosh!
Final Rating: 8 swift belly ska-dooshs out of 10….SKA-DOOSH! Great word.
Kung Fu Panda 2 barrels right into your funny bone, taking you on a crazy good ride.