Although fun and energetic “Kung Fu Panda 2” lacks the overall originality and soul of the first film. The original film was a movie that could be enjoyed by any age, the sequel, unfortunately, is just a kid’s film, a really great kids film, but a kid’s film all the same.
All the ingredients from the first film are here, stunningly rendered CG, great character animation and stellar voice work from the entire cast, what is missing is a script that focused on the story, the journey, the characters and the action more than the morals. This film lacked the energy of the first film because we seemed to stop every 20 or so minutes so our hero Po could learn a new life lesson. This in itself is not a bad thing but it makes you kinda just want to get back into the moment of the film.
I loved the first “kung Fu Panda” and “How To Train Your Dragon” a lot and I was really looking forward to the second instalment in the Panda franchise, but I came away with vague feeling of disappointment. I have felt for awhile now that if any company was going to out do Pixar, Dreamworks animation was going to be that company. They went from the strength of “Kung Fu Panda” to the powerhouse of “How To Train Your Dragon” effortlessly leading me to believe that “Kung Fu Panda 2” was going to be something special. But with this film I feel like they have taken a step backwards, not a huge one but a step backwards nonetheless.
This time around Po and the Furious Five must stop bad guy Shen before he introduces cannons to ancient China thus causing mass destruction and destroying Kung Fu. Along the way Po discovers more about himself and where he came from.
The original cast is back with Jack Black in terrific form as Po the Panda. The Furious Five; Mantis (Seth Rogan), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) are all given a little more to do in this film which can only be a good thing. Dustin Hoffman returns as Master Shifu in a much smaller role but his presence is felt and James Hong returns as Po’s father Mr. Ping, one of my favourite characters.
Joining the returning cast are Gary Oldman as the bad guy Shen and Michelle Yeoh as the Soothsayer. Now I loved the Soothsayer character but I had a problem with Shen. Gary Oldman did a fine job voicing him but I just didn’t get the same sense of menace I got from Ian McShane’s bad guy in the first film. Shen felt more like a petulant teenager trying to get back at his parents than a full blown evil bad guy and in a film with these larger than life characters, you kind of need a larger than life bad guy.
Overall I enjoyed the film, thought the 3D was fantastic and had a good time watching it, I just wish it had the same soul as the first film. This a problem with all sequels though, originality and surprise are key ingredients to any film going experience and those are really hard ingredients to get again when you are making a film with a number at the end of the title.
I don’t want you misunderstand my review, I did like the film, I just don’t think it is as good or as fresh as the original but this is a film where I can whole heartedly say, your 12 year olds will love it.