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Kung Fu Panda 2

A 2011 movie directed by Jennifer Yuh.

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A Worthy Continuation of the Original

  • Jul 21, 2012

In my opinion DreamWorks has always played second fiddle to Pixar in the computer generated feature film genre.  Their rivalry has existed for nearly as long as there has been a computer generated feature film genre! Pixar had Toy Story, DreamWorks had Small Soldiers. Pixar had A Bug’s Life, DreamWorks Antz. Pixar Monsters Inc., DreamWorks Monsters Vs. Aliens.  Pixar with Cars and DreamWorks with Trucks.  No wait, I made that last one up.  But you get the idea. 

It seems to me like DreamWorks’ best efforts are the ones that don’t have a direct Pixar counterpart: The Shrek saga and How to Train Your Dragon to mention a few.  I am of the stance that 2008’s Kung-Fu Panda perfectly represents this phenomenon of high-quality DreamWorks originality.

What we had there was a bit of tribute to the Kung-Fu classics with a lot of unexpected character charm to cement the intense action sequences and lovely visuals.  When I heard a sequel was in the works, I naturally feared for the worst.  Generally speaking sequels in the CG film arena are hit or miss (with emphasis on miss).  Ever see Space Chimps 2, Hoodwinked 2 or Open Season 2 (or even scarier, Open Season 3)?  Sure you have your Shreks & Toy Stories but more often than not it seems to me that animation studios have a hard time recapturing the magic of the originals; especially when the original contains the ever-illusive element of heart.

That said Kung-Fu Panda 2, riding on the success of the first one, was given a budget increase to the tune of 20-mil ($150,000,000 versus 130,000,000), brought back all of the key members of the original cast (with a few new ones) and even retained the vast majority of the production & animator crew.  To summarize, DreamWorks made darn sure not to risk losing said heart of the first film.  Did they succeed? For the most part absolutely.  Viewers looking for something more grandiose may be disappointed but the good news here is that Kung-Fu Panda 2 succeeds at feeling more like a continuation of the first film than it does a genuine sequel.  And considering the first film ended in such a manner where a sequel wasn’t necessary, this is a very good thing indeed.

Jack Black reprises his role as the titular overweight martial-arts trainee panda and his entire Furious Five retinue return uninterrupted (Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross)). Series staples Dustin Hoffman as Po’s master Shifu and James Hong as Po’s noodle-peddling dad return as well. The villain is new this time; a sociopath peacock named Shen, and played to perfection by Gary Oldman.  Other noteworthy additions include casting real-life karate aficionado Jean-Claude Van Damme to play Master Croc.

The story takes us back to the visually lush Valley of Peace and finds a newfound camaraderie between Po and his Furious Five cohorts.  At just about the same time Po suddenly realizes that he bears (no pun intended, for now) no physical resemblance to his dad, the villainous Shen surfaces with a weapon of mass destruction and plans to conquer all of China.

In terms of scope, the bar has been raised slightly but it’s clear that the focus here was to expand upon the character back-stories and their interaction with one another over expanding geographically strictly for the sake of spending some of that additional 20-mil.

The plot thickens slightly once Po realizes Shen’s ambitions and the fact that he doesn’t remember his birth parents aren’t completely unrelated occurrences.  Unfortunately though, canceling out the slightly deeper plot structure of the sequel is the fact that Po’s clumsy, lighthearted enthusiasm seems somehow misplaced now that he has been revealed a psychologically scarred Kung Fu disciple.

Pacing is decent, if a bit longer feeling than the first, though all in all the 90-minute runtime does go by fairly quickly since no time need be wasted setting up backgrounds for our heroes.  Hans Zimmer nails the musical score with his trademarked near-subliminally perfect melodies and heart thumping action accompaniments.

In all Kung-Fu Panda joins a pretty slim gathering of titles that actually manage to do the concept of a sequel justice.  While it could be argued that DreamWorks played it safe by failing to stray from the path established in the first one, at least they knew not to fix what wasn’t broken.  The old phrase, “it’s not as original as the original” certainly applies as well but here’s hoping the formula continues to stay fresh as DreamWorks has stated they hope to milk this into a 6-movie franchise.  Will fans tire of Po’s antics through four more films? There’s a swamp-dwelling big green ogre who thinks not.

A Worthy Continuation of the Original A Worthy Continuation of the Original A Worthy Continuation of the Original A Worthy Continuation of the Original

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July 22, 2012
Great review and pictures too!
July 23, 2012
Thank you for the read & feedback. Will you continue following the series if it really goes 6-movies?
July 23, 2012
I might.
July 21, 2012
awesomeness. I knew you'd like this one, Jay!
July 22, 2012
A few years late but parts of your review still resonated with me as I watched this one! DreamWorks has really been on a roll. How to Train Your Dragon, Megamind, this series.. really solid stuff. I just hope they don't wear this one too thin. A 6 movie series rings of Rocky and Jaws :\
July 22, 2012
speaking of JAWS--I am pumped for the release of the bluray. I will by to check out your other stuff. Btw, did you see my review for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES yet? (cheap plug) LOL Glad to see you around again!
More Kung Fu Panda 2 reviews
review by . May 28, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Skadoooshhh!! The Return of Awwwessoommmeee Panda-Monium!!
I have to admit that I was one of those who were pleasantly surprise how “Kung Fu Panda” in 2008 may have surpassed Dreamworks’ much praised animated movie “Shrek”. It was just a piece of creative wonder that combined Chinese martial arts sensibilities, action, quirky comedy and a well-rounded story with Jack Black’s fast-talking humor and eccentricity, enveloped in a good-natured manner. While I was prepared for the worst, (animated movie sequels usually never …
review by . June 28, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Was I the only one a little disturbed by the scene in the first Kung Fu Panda where Po's father told us the lineage of his noodle stand? You know, where he said he got it from his father, who got it from his father, who got it from his father, who were all geese? And in the fourth picture, the animal was finally changed, but it turned out the stand was won in a game of chance? And we wondered just how Po got to be a Panda? Well, Kung Fu Panda 2 gives the answer to that question.     I …
review by . June 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     When all is said and done, I suppose that I must applaud "Kung Fu Panda 2" for being a better sequel than it really needs to be. Many sequels both animated and not release each year; most of them failing to deliver. "Kung Fu Panda 2" may not be great, but as animated entertainment, it serves its purpose rather superbly. It's definitely a recommendation for those who appreciate animated films, and those who enjoyed the first film will probably find plenty to …
review by . June 03, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
When an animated movie hits the right note for me, it really knocks it out of the park. I’ve sat through my fair share of awful animated movies, and when one screws up the formula, it’s really hard to sit through. You can see the resolution coming a mile away, and the jokes that fail to hit the golden balance between kids and adults makes you want to jump out of a window. Thankfully, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a classic benchmark for efficiently mixing humor, action, and a hybrid sort of story …
review by . May 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Po returns to battle evil with his improved kung-fu skills and this time he will be rocking out in another dimension of awesomeness. Dreamworks, never one to let a franchise die until the last drop of profit and respect is drained out of the series, plans to make this a six-part series. While an action movie can usually extend itself as long as it has a credible threat from a powerful villain, one can't help but think how many times you could hear Jack Black as a panda. Well on the plus side, …
review by . May 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Kung Fu Panda 2 is a deeply involving 3D animated film, although (and this should come as no surprise to you) it has little to do with the 3D, a consistently disappointing process if ever there was one. Firstly, like its 2008 predecessor, it’s simply a lot of fun. There’s sheer exuberance to the characters, the vocal performances, and the animation – the latter especially, since there are plenty of gravity-defying martial arts …
review by . June 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   PG - 90mins - Animation/Action/Adventure - 10th June 2011    Po (Jack Black) returns in another kung fu animation adventure which sees our ever hungry panda face up to a new and devastating threat in the form of angry albino peacock (Gary Oldman) Lord Shen. Having been cast out by his parents years before for his atrocities, Shen has been biding his time returning with a new technology that threatens to enable him to conquer China.      Po is joined once …
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Ranked #14
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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About this movie


Kung Fu Panda 2 is a American 3D 2011 computer-animated action comedy film and the sequel to the 2008 film Kung Fu Panda. The cast of the original film reprised their voice roles. The film was released on May 26, 2011 in Real D 3D and Digital 3D.
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Director: Jennifer Yuh
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family
Release Date: 26 May 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Screen Writer: Glenn Berger, Jonathan Aibel
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