Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Genre: Fairy Tale and Martial Arts Running Time: 1 hr. 31 min.

Release Date: May 26th, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson Actors: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Gary Oldman, Lucy Liu, Michelle Yeoh

 


 

“K

ung Fu Panda 2″ capitalizes on the same techniques that made its predecessor successful: a goofy lead character struggling desperately to fit in; comical character designs and playful animation; and an all-star cast of voice actors with such recognizable articulation that they breach the visual barrier of their 3D alter egos. Although the first film defined the characters, their relationships, destinies, and the setting of ancient Asia, this second outing has the opportunity to utilize each role purely for action, adventure, comic relief, and even a bit of pathos. Just when the sappiness ramps up to the point of unbearable, the script has enough sense to thwart eye-rolls (or tears if the manipulation worked) with sharply contrasting humor.

Po (Jack Black) the overweight panda has been proclaimed the almighty “Dragon Warrior,” and oversees the safety of China with his band of capable sidekicks, the Furious Five: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross), and Viper (Lucy Liu). As he speaks with his patient master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) about finding inner peace, a gang of wolf bandits pillages a nearby city in search of metal objects, forcing Po to depart for a hasty rescue. As he will soon discover, the banished peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) has forged fire-breathing, metal-spitting cannons to wipe out all who stand in his path to world domination.

It’s debatable whether or not the story has grown more entertaining, especially considering the plot is little more than a generic kung fu tale of good vs. evil, like the kind found in just about every live-action martial arts film in the last several decades. While the main conflict is a relentless overlord with an obedient army and destructive weaponry, the underlying discordance is Po’s hazy recollection of the past and the desire to know who he is, how he ended up the son of a goose, and what happened to his real parents. Is Po in need of confidence or the drive of revenge? Are his actions provoked by inner peace, as the movie insists on preaching, or by the powerful force that is adrenaline-pumping payback?

Perhaps he’s simply trying to succeed at being “hardcore” so that he can measure up to his companions. And if that’s the case, it’s a shame that so much of his time is spent annoyingly foiling reconnaissance, ambush, and rescue missions with his numbing defiance and cack-handed clumsiness. It’s funny at times to see how pathetic he is compared to his generally no-nonsense warrior counterparts, but equally infuriating that he doesn’t have to learn the hard way that there are consequences for his reckless actions. This leads to the invincibility exhibited by all parties, which reduces the urgency and seriousness of every predicament. Po is immune to injuries and haphazardly shields himself from harm with an accidental frying pan, a lucky misstep, or a loose floor plank that swings up (like stepping on a rake) to block an onslaught of throwing knives. Crane similarly avoids danger with spastic flight, and Tigress has no excuses at all – she suffers only singed whiskers after taking a cannonball to the face. Gravity and physics also seem to utterly evade the heroes, playing no part in their unlikely escapes – although it does make the creatively complex chase sequences more intense and spontaneous.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10