In in this installment, we find Po and the Furious Five defending the Valley of Peace from evil when a new threat rises. Lord Shen, an albino peacock banished by his parents many years ago, has returned with a technology capable of ending kung fu and conquering China. As the Furious Five embark to destroy the weapon, Po begins to realize that Shen may be linked to his lost childhood past as a panda bear. I won’t say any more in fear of spoiling the story, but be prepared for a powerful emotional experience. It successfully weaves the topics of fatherhood, friendship and family into a colorful story that even though we know how it will end, it gets there very very emphatically. Needless to say, this washed the bad taste that Hangover II put into my mouth last week.
Though the first movie had a lot of juvenile humor, Kung Fu Panda 2 had a lot less fat jokes and a lot more slapstick. Despite the marketing, Po only says “Skadoosh” once, and it’s actually pretty cool. Also, I have to give props to Hans Zimmer. After Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was a bit of a letdown, the soundtrack to Kung Fu Panda 2 is quite awesome, adding to the already epic tone. It was also good to see the entire ensemble back in full form. My personal favorite from the original cast is James Hong as Mr. Ping. The Asian American actor is perhaps best known as the villain in Big Trouble in Little China. Voice talent like Van Damme, Jackie Chan, and Michelle Yeoh participating make it all feel a little more genuine as an Asian influenced film. Just like Shrek 2, this was everything a sequel should be.
With ingenious methods, the actions scenes are executed. And in many parts where you would normally expect a punch line or superb dialogue, there will be an excellent goof-up which seems to tickle you just enough. 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. The big risk involved is of course coming up with the inevitable follow up film given the profits that it had raked in, so with that pressure in mind, I can give mercy to that shortcoming. Also, if the filmmakers can continue to capture exactly what makes martial arts movies tick and distill it like it did for the first two films, I dare say we’re in for a mighty strong franchise that will appeal to kids.
There’s obviously a Kung Fu Panda 3 coming, as evident from the last scene, and my fingers are crossed for it. The set-pieces in this movie are more exciting than most action movies. True, animation gives you a lot more breathing room when it comes to imaginary battles, but there were fights and clashes in this movie that were just stunning. The focus on character is so surprisingly sharp that the conflict seamlessly fuses with the rest of the material, becoming accessible to everyone in the audience. I’ve talked a lot about action, but parents, rest assured there’s nothing here that will damage your kids. Go out and see this film! Your fist will hunger for justice!!