Review: Kung Fu Panda 2


Directed by: Jennifer Yuh
Written by:Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Starring: Jack Black, Angelia Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen
Released: June 23, 2011
Grade: B-

In the last Kung Fu Panda flick, Po (Black) mastered the art of kung fu and defeated an evil snow leopard.  This time around, there’s a new adversary – a peacock named Shen (Oldman).  He has plans for world domination and so goes on a bizarre mission to eliminate our cuddly panda and rid the world of kung fu.

It’s going to be a challenging assignment for Po and the other members of the Furious Five.  He sums it up when he asks “how can kung fu stop something that stops kung fu?”  To find the answers, Po takes the advice of Master Shifu (Hoffman) and goes in search of inner peace.

There’s another element to this story and that’s Po’s quest to learn the identity of his parents.  Not longer after he was born, Po was left in a crate near the back of a noodle restaurant.  He was found by a loveable goose named Mr. Ping (my favourite character in the movie) and raised as his own.  Po wants to know what happened to his family and why he was abandoned.

I really enjoyed the first film but I felt a tad underwhelmed by this sequel.  It focuses too heavily on flashy action sequences and lacks the amusing banter that I remember fondly from the original.  Part of my love for Kung Fu Panda was the character development of the relationship between Po and Master Shifu.  Sadly, we don’t get that this time around and Master Shifu has been strangely shoved into the background.

I also believe that too much screen time has been devoted to the new enemy.  I’m sorry but a nasty peacock voiced by Gary Oldman just doesn’t do it for me.  I didn’t find Shen threatening or intimidating at all.  The way he kept escaping with nonchalant ease was tiring.  It’s like watching Dr Claw in an episode of Inspector Gadget.  I realise this is an animated family flick but I wish the writers had of come up with something a little more suspenseful.

Turning to the positives… the quality of animation is top-notch once again.  The 3D effects are superfluous but that seems to be the case with every animated flick these days (and I don’t want to sound like a broken record).  Jack Black charms the audience as Po and he has enough one-liners to keep you chuckling.

Tracking well behind the original film at the box-office in the United States, perhaps this is a franchise with a limited shelf life.