In 2008 we got the cute and funny cartoon Kung Fu Panda, featuring the voice of Jack Black. Three years later, our panda Po is still overweight, but doing what he loves and so hilariously fought for in part one — being the legendary Dragon Warrior. The sequel still has its tasty tray of A-list Hollywood voices (Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman) and this time around we also get Gary Oldman. We also get more heart and soul and less laughs, which for me, was a good thing!
- Director: Jennifer Yuh
- Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
- Actors: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Jean-Claude Van Damme
- Producer: Guillermo del Toro
- Music By: John Powell, Hans Zimmer
Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five – Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. But Po’s new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. It is now up to Po and The Furious Five to journey across China to face this threat and vanquish it.
- Jack Black: Like any actor, Black has had his hits and misses (maybe more misses than hits), but hearing his voice via an animated Panda, took me back to the first time I decided I liked the guy (flashback to seeing Black singing Led Zeppelin‘s “Immigrant Song” in School of Rock). Black does well as the martial arts fighting Po. He knows when to be funny. He’s in tune with the flow of his character and other characters around him.
- Deep stories: At the heart of Kung Fu Panda 2, there’s a wise Buddhist waiting to get out. One could appreciate the animated film for including mature themes like fate and identity, but still keeping its primary goal in clear focus, which is to entertain the family. Audiences will get to know where Po really comes from, and get their answer to why his father is not a panda, but a goose.
- Action: Yes, animated films have a lot more room for this kind of thing than live-action films, but as far as action and fighting scenes go, Kung Fu Panda 2 kicks butt! The action scenes look amazing, and they will be entertaining whether you’re a 5-year-old boy or a 22-year-old girl.
- Gary Oldman: First off let me say that all the characters are fun and add something great to this sequel, but it would be wrong if I didn’t give a special shout out to the voice behind the peacock, Mr. Oldman. Here, Oldman plays the evil Lord Shen (who’s set on conquering all of China), and he’s perfectly casted. Never has the beautiful peacock been so, so not beautiful. Thanks Mr. Oldman!
- More tears, less laughs: This sequel is not like those other sequels. It won’t have you saying, ‘Well, that was a complete waste of my time.’ Or regretting the $11.50 you paid to see it. Like I said, it’s got a heart and soul, and that sets it apart from the first one. The story focuses on Po’s journey of self-identity (hint: adult theme). But beware, you’ll be bursting into tears more than you’ll be bursting into laughs. There are laughs, but I would’ve preferred to spend more time laughing at more jokes and puns than sobbing at Po’s emotional baggage.
Just ask yourself, pain in simple — if you loved the first one, how are you not going to love the second one? (This doesn’t always work for sequels, but, in this case, it does.)
Kung Fu Panda 2 hits theaters May 26th (at midnight, if you can get the kiddies to stay up that late).