Movie Review - Kung Fu Panda 2
When the first Kung Fu Panda was released, I didn't go see it in theaters. It's overwhelmingly positive critical and box office success did sway me to see it on DVD and I was pleasantly surprised on how entertaining and engaging it was. That being said, I found it utterly forgettable. I still remember the recent Pixar films very vividly. Kung Fu Panda, which was a DreamWorks Animation production however, has completely left my consciousness. I think I'll remember this sequel a little bit more if only because the story within it is practically Biblical like Herod-and-Jesus-Biblical and plus the filmmakers clearly want you to remember this sequel because they're clearly setting up for a third installment.
If so, I hope that the third movie plays off the father-son relationship, which is touched upon here. As was established in the first, Po the panda, voiced by Jack Black, grew up in a Chinese noodle shop run by a single-father goose. I don't completely recall, but I get the impression that the fact that the two are of different species wasn't addressed in the original. Yet, it becomes a focal point here. Po gets the story of how he was adopted and eventually why, and ultimately what happened to his biological parents.
In the middle of dealing with this issue, Po has to deal with a psychotic peacock named Shen, voiced by Gary Oldman, who wants to take over China using a new weapon. What becomes obvious, even before the magical ending, is that Po and his team, the Furious Five, led by a hardened tigress, voiced by Angelina Jolie, will defeat Shen. It's just a matter of how interesting will the action or fight sequences be. For me, the action or fight scenes weren't interesting at all here because there was no sense of danger. There was never at any point when I thought the characters might not win or succeed. Yes, this is a cartoon, generally aimed at children and families, but, as Pixar has proved, especially in Toy Story 3, there can be a deathly danger in a cartoon and still be acceptable.
Instead, the filmmakers, for the most part, were going for comedy. They wanted the action or fight scenes to be more comical, obviously because Jack Black is a comedian. Aside from a gag involving a dragon costume that Po and the Furious Five wear, the scenes really aren't that funny. As Shen appropriately says at one point, "Your stupidity is mildly amusing." This is how I ultimately felt about the entire film.
The only credit I can really give it is the look of the animation itself. Like with other recent animated films, such as Ratatouille, the look of the animals, especially the panda in certain close-ups, was very photo-realistic. For example, the fur on Po seems so tactile, so extremely life-like that it's past extraordinary. But, what isn't extraordinary is the lackadaisical story, some kung fooey that's cute and kind of gooey on one's heart, but in the end boring.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG for mild violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.