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Kung Fu Panda 2 - Movie Review

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Kung Fu Panda 2 - Movie Review

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3 Stars

Owing a huge debt to the beauty of Genndy Tartakovsky's Samurai Jack, Jennifer Yuh's Kung Fu Panda 2 exploits what worked best about the 2008 original but wraps itself in a less satisfying narrative this time around. Most of the pathos of the film belongs not to our Dragon Warrior Panda Bear (although an attempt is made) but to the villain, a strikingly computer-rendered violent Peacock.  Visually stunning in 3D and merging some classic animation with the engrossing stylized-look of the film, Kung Fu Panda 2 is inferior to its predecessor in function but not form.

Po (Jack Black) has uncovered some serious Daddy issues.  So much so, that Mast Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) tries to prepare our hero for the journey ahead with some “inner peace” training.  Haunted by sudden memories of being abandoned by his parents, Po fails to land a punch that would have ended The Furious Five’s struggle against dark forces and questions the truth he has long clung to.  Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), and Crane (David Cross) assist Po in a weightless adventure that sees his fate joined by the sinister Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a peacock who aims to rule all of China.  Written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. Kung Fu Panda 2 isn’t an altogether sucker punch as it has some interesting qualities and funny moments, but retreading the original storyline (almost line by line) isn’t exactly the best way for any sequel to proceed.

The highlights of the film are to be found in its setting and the inclusion of Lord Shen, a villain whose tragic backstory rivals that of Po’s when it comes to interest (of course, the kiddos will side with Po).  The attention to the Chinese cities and Hong Kong cinema is certainly appreciated as the artistry and visual punch of the picture is what makes this film a must-see.  The sets are rich with color and dynamic styling and the layers gone into the atmosphere of the film are simply breathtaking and the 3D is a constantly engaging experience.

The story, unfortunately, is not.

Everything about this – even most of the performances (Oldman is excused here, his is really strong) – feels forced.  The fighting isn’t as robust as the original and the territory the narrative covers feels completely flat.  This storyline has no reason to be so unmoving and unoriginal.  For a moment, I thought Lord Shen’s story would win the picture over and push it into new territory, but the writers settle for the ham-and-cheese ending and sell their souls for whopping amounts of box office revenue.  The action, momentarily, swings the picture into high gear again.  Yet, few scenes feel imaginative and achieve the insanity of the original.  The carnival street dragon routine is the film’s only new action highlight and even that becomes a bit repetitive.  And what of Po’s stomach?  That maneuver seems to be his only maneuver…

Ultimately, the cool look of the picture overcomes the recycled pathos of the forgettable storyline.  It’s been three years since the original.  The picture doesn’t feel like a rush job, but that story hanging around its neck is dead weight.  No, the kids won't mind but you might feel a bit cheated.  Kung Fu Panda 2 is visually rich with kineticism and kung fu quips, but it is a solid disappointment in the story department as it suffers from a dangerous bout of deadly Dragon Warrior déjà vu.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Kung Fu Panda 2 - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence.
Director: Jennifer Yuh
Writer
: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Cast:
Jack Black, Angelina Jolie; Gary Oldman; Seth Rogen; Jean-Claude Van Damme; Jackie Chan
Genre
: Animated | Family | Adventure
Tagline:
Prepare for the return of awesomeness.
Memorable Movie Quote: "My fist hungers for justice!"
Distributor:
Paramount Pictures
Release Date:
May 26, 2011
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 13, 2011

Synopsis: Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five - Tigress, Crane, Mantis, Viper and Monkey. But Po's new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. It is up to Po and The Furious Five to journey across China to face this threat and vanquish it. But how can Po stop a weapon that can stop kung fu? He must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.

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