I wasn’t surprised when I first heard that Dreamworks was planning a sequel to “Kung Fu Panda,” but I was conflicted. I enjoyed the original film, but didn’t know if a sequel was needed or if it could even work. Fortunately, I ended being wrong on both counts. “Kung Fu Panda 2” is a great film both for families and for a general audience.
“Kung Fu Panda 2” focuses on Po (Jack Black), the Dragon Warrior and the rest of the Furious Five as they try to save China and kung fu itself. A power hungry peacock named Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) has invented a powerful weapon to aid him in his goals. Po and the Five are sent on a mission to destroy the weapon by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). Along the way Po discovers, and has to deal with, his past.
Let me start off by saying that this film is just plain wonderful to look at. The talent that went into making it really shines through in every scene. From the beautifully animated backstory that the film begins with, to the detail on Po’s fur when it gets wet, I got a real sense of the work that made this film possible. Not only is the CGI work fluid and vibrantly colored, but the film throws in 2D animation that is equally well-done. The change in animation styles works well because it takes place during dreams or flashbacks. It’s different from the movie but not random to the extent of being confusing.
I also want to specifically mention the animation for the fight scenes. In my opinion this is where the sequel really shines above the original. The fluidity and expression of the movements for Po and the Five really shine through. Making the character of Lord Shen a peacock was an inspired move on the part of the filmmakers. Watching him move and fight was a great experience in itself. I will say as a disclaimer that I did not see the film in 3D, so I can’t judge how the animation and visuals translate to that format.
The film’s story is also enjoyable. While the original film’s plot was tight and well written, the sequel has a little more heart to it, especially when it deals with Po’s personal quest to find out about his birth parents. As big of a wimp as I am, I was not expecting to start tearing up over “Kung Fu Panda 2” of all things, but here we are. Here I have to give credit to Jack Black. I have not always been a fan of his work, but in “Kung Fu Panda 2” he manages to reel in his sometimes exhausting energy when it counts. Any scene with Po and his adoptive father Ping (James Hong) is surprisingly heartwarming.
I did find myself having some trouble with the film’s pacing, however. The first half of the plot goes by in the blink of an eye, but when Po and company arrive to their destination it slows down considerably. Ultimately it does not detract from the experience, but given that the first film had pretty solid pacing it’s an obvious problem.
Honestly, I didn’t find myself having any real problems with the film. If for some reason you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend that you do.Contact Carlos Serrano.