Kung Fu Panda 2 (May Contain Spoilers)

Sometimes even the harshest of film critics (which I clearly am not!) has to have a guilty pleasure. For me, its kid’s movies. Not all kid’s movies, but just those which are tailored so the adults can bear to sit through them at the same time. But when you combine something that I’ve loved since I was 14, like Martial Arts flicks, with a cuddly animal in the title, then that’s just begging to be my biggest guilty pleasure! So even though I didn’t quite see the reason behind a sequel, I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda so much I figured I would at least give number two a chance.

Kung Fu Panda 2 sees the lovable, naïve and always hungry Po (voiced by Jack Black) sent out on a mission with the Furious Five by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to stop the evil Lord Chen (Gary Oldman) from unleashing the destructive power of his new invention which could eliminate Kung Fu forever. But what Po doesn’t count on is Chen’s connection to his past, and he gradually finds out more about where he came from, who he is and more importantly, why his dad is a goose! Kung Fu Panda 2 has a much bigger and darker storyline than the first, but that can only be expected from a sequel to such a big selling film. It also means that it opens up the plot to find out more about Po’s unfortunate past and how he lost his parents, but at the same time means there’s lots of cute baby panda scenes which only the stoniest of hearts could resist. Also, in a strange way, the last shot of the film (with an entire farming colony of Pandas) leaves it open for a potential third film but with an unclear storyline – perhaps there’s a Po twin amongst the colony and there will be a Double Dragon style team-up?

The unfortunate side to Kung Fu Panda 2 is that, at its heart, it’s still a kids movie and doesn’t go as dark as it potentially could. This means an undeniable Hollywood ending similar to the first film in the way that though characters come close to dying, none of them do and therefore the threat is lost, and Po manages to master his “inner peace” in the space of the movie when other Kung Fu Masters have taken years to master it. While it’s not quite an example of the Harry Potter Resolve I’ve mentioned before, it is just because Kung Fu Panda 2 is a kid’s movie that means it has to happen in that way, and as such you end up accepting it as inevitability. Once you get past that, you end up enjoying the action scenes at the end with the heroes saving the day, which sets Po up as more of an action hero throughout the whole film. This happens to such an extent, turning Po around from a bumbling comedy character to more of a comedy action hero, that you feel more like you’re watching a real Kung Fu movie played out with animated animals than any kind of kid’s movie.

While the storyline opens up to learn more about Po and his past, it also allows the other characters to be involved more than the first film and lets the other voice talents get more of a spotlight. The amount of names involved in Kung Fu Panda 2 is certainly impressive – not just the returning voices of Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie as Tigress, Lucy Liu as Viper and Jackie Chan as Monkey, but there’s also Seth Rogen voicing Mantis as a bigger part, and Jean-Claude Van Damme as Master Croc and Danny McBride making an appearance throughout the film and turns Kung Fu Panda 2 into something much less tacky and franchise-like than it could potentially have been.

Kung Fu Panda 2 also uses the most impressive 3D I’ve seen in a film in a long time, which makes me think that perhaps 3D should be kept exclusively to animated films and not live action ones. Kung Fu Panda 2 manages to mix less slapstick comedy and more action together into a big, bombastic sequel that retains all of the wit and charm of the first, and as such gets 6 out of 10 for being easily watchable and a sure-fire guilty pleasure for your inner child!

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2 Comments

  1. After I heard baby panda scenes I think reading the rest was hard, because I was just thinking of little Po as a little animated baby panda!! It sounds like you liked this film as more than a 6 out of ten, but u dont want to admit it!! lol.

    • I definitely enjoyed it a lot, like I said its a guilty pleasure, but I have to rate it with some form of continuity against the ratings of others, so I dont want to give everything 6 or 7 out of ten because it doesnt mean much then, and it wasnt good enough to give it higher or vice versa, bad enough to give it lower. Though the baby panda scenes did swing it a little…


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