Not too often does the chance come along to praise a sequel as a better product than its predecessor. So let’s seize the opportunity: Kung Fu Panda 2 kicks the original’s big fuzzy keester.
And really, the first film was pretty good. But Kung Fu Panda 2 is energetic, it’s funny, and above all else – here comes the biggie – it’s endearing. Jack Black couldn’t find a smidgeon of a connection with his audience in the live action Gulliver’s Travels, but boy, does he hit ‘er out of the park as a bear.
In this adventure, we find out why Po (Black), a roly-poly panda bear, was raised by a goose (it is a good question), and introduces a new villain, a peacock known as Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), who was told a prophecy that he would one day die at the hands of “a black and white warrior.” Now, if that concept doesn’t give you a pretty good hint at Po’s heritage … well then, you’re really here only for the jokes and fisticuffs, aren’t you?
The movie, like the first film, makes effective use of its famous voices (a rather impressive gathering that includes Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan). Like the recent winning animated flick Rio, the vocal performances aren’t flashy, but they fit. All of them. And while the picture itself is definitely amusing, Kung Fu Panda 2 isn’t overly silly. (Well okay, save for the dragon costume devouring wolf thugs, then, uh, ‘digesting’ them. Trust me, it might not translate well on paper, but it’s hilarious).
When a movie gels as beautifully as this one, both visually and emotionally, it’s easy to gush over. Pixar, you finally have a little competition…
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give Kung Fu Panda 2 a four. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.