Kung Fu Panda 2

The very same themes of the first Kung Fu Panda are recycled again in this noisy sequel. Except this time he’s also got to deal with child abandonment issues. Like its predecessor the panda somehow pulls it together by believing in himself, finding inner peace and blah blah blah, so that he can save the day and have a happy ending. But Po is such a bumbling, dim witted incompetent as the hero that it’s inconceivable he would ever be able to tie his shoes, let alone defeat an evil mastermind. He’s got the grace of a bull in a china shop. Seriously if you can imagine Curly from the Three Stooges using his athletic prowess to out karate Bruce Lee, then you might be able to accept Po’s story arc. Apparently we are to trust that simply believing in yourself is enough. But how can we accept that when he can’t even overpower his friend the Tigress who easily bests him in practice battle?

Kung Fu Panda 2’s technical charms are undeniable. There’s a priority placed on razzle dazzle spectacle and there are lots of battles. The narrative is highlighted by cluttered action scenes that have the emotional depth of a video game. To that end, young children should find the pretty colors and goofy antics of Po amusing. The beautiful images authentically represent the landscape and architecture at Mount Qingcheng, a renowned center of Taoism.  But all of those efforts are betrayed by the superficiality of the dialogue.  There’s a decidedly modern feel to the language and attitudes of the characters that make the historical setting in ancient China seem arbitrary. The anecdotes are even more aimed at kids in this offering.  The lack of sense gets a bit insulting.  This martial arts fantasy doesn’t have a script with personalities or drama with that will engage adults.  His fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five, are criminally underused.  I think the Monkey had two lines. Master Shifu, the red panda who was Po’s teacher and trainer in part one, is sadly missed.  He’s basically a cameo in this entry.  He was arguably the second most important individual and that film’s emotional center. It’s regrettable that such a visually stunning masterpiece of animation has a plot that is so thoroughly lacking in originality or intelligence.

There are a couple bright spots. Po experiences dreams that are presented in traditional non-computerized cartoons that are highly stylized. These flashbacks that inform his past are absolutely enchanting because they have a sense of elegance and calm in direct contrast to the silliness of the rest of the story. Also significantly contributing to the proceedings is Gary Oldman as Lord Shen, a peacock who is Po’s arch nemesis. Oldman’s line readings have the dramatic weight of a Shakespearean actor and I surprisingly found myself rooting for his delightfully wicked Lord Shen over the wussiness of Jack Black’s Po.

Shen: The only reason you are still alive is that I find your stupidity mildly amusing.
Po: Well thank you, but I find your evilness extremely annoying!

Oldman’s voice is dripping with a sinister delight that makes his silvery white peacock someone you love to hate. He was just so much more engaging than the panda. But when the movie is called Kung Fu Panda 2, that’s a problem.

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7 Responses to “Kung Fu Panda 2”

  1. Loved the review! So mean 😉

    • I think the filmmakers were mean for wasting my time. It made a ton of money so I guess we’re gonna get a Kung Fu Panda 3. Something tells me the story will have something to do with believing in yourself. Oh and the Panda will act like a mental defective for the whole movie and then inexplicably pull it together right at the end.

  2. Yes, children probably love this movie. I envisioned small children laughing at so much of the silliness,throughout this film. For adults…..not so good. Jack Black was a little annoying, and I agree, Gary Oldman was fun. Reminded me of Jafar from Aladdin.

    • I’m fully aware I’m really picking this film apart, but I wanted to explain why this film annoyed me. I found Jack Black almost intellectually insulting to be quite honest. Children are a valid audience. I’m fully aware they would and did love this, but alas I am no longer a child.

  3. Loved the review, but didn’t really agree with this. To each his own though. I found it visually exciting and everything else while not great, kept me involved in the story. I got some comments that couldn’t believe I didn’t really like “Crazy, Stupid, Love”.

  4. Another very enjoyable review, but it’s a shame you weren’t too fond of the film. I quite liked it, although I only saw it at the cinema. I’m not sure how I’d feel on a re watch.

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