The first Kung Fu Panda movie was a hit, which Dreamworks Animation sorely needed. After the terrible three terrible movies – Bee Movie, Flushed Away, and Shrek the Third – Dreamworks was in desperate need of a franchise that both audiences and critics would adore. Kung Fu Panda was it. It seemed that Kung Fu Panda had finally given Dreamworks a leg up. Like they were coming one step closer to sitting aside Pixar instead of constantly looking up at them. While, Kung Fu Panda may have helped Dreamworks in that aspect, the second film of the franchise takes a few steps backwards.
Jack Black reprises his role as Po, an overweight panda who has become a kung fu warrior. The Dragon Warrior to be exact. The first film had Po trying to overcome his physical drawbacks, the second film is centered more around Po’s emotional demons.
It’s been a long-running joke in Kung Fu Panda that Po was obviously adopted, but no one really acknowledges it. Po’s father is a goose, so it’s pretty obvious that they aren’t related by blood. Kung Fu Panda 2 deals with Po’s origins. Where did he come from? Where are the other pandas? Who were his real parents?
The antagonist is a peacock named Lord Shen voiced by Gary Oldman. Shen has discovered the destructive force of gun powder and canons and is going to use it to conquer all of China. The Furious Five and the Dragon Warrior are called in to stop the slaughter before it starts.
The first half of Kung Fu Panda 2 feels like a Saturday morning cartoon special. Lots of high-flying action coupled with humor that even the kids might not find amusing. They retread a lot of the same jokes that they visited the first time around. The first half is slow and may have your kids wandering in the isles before the second half kicks it up a few notches.
After the potty humor is over with and the stiff first act is in the past, the movie starts to unfold into a rather emotional tale. We find out about Po’s past during some truly harrowing flashbacks. Po’s origin story adds emotion to a film that was, until now, riding along on the same old jokes that the first movie made.
The action in the second half is also much better. A gigantic action scene aboard Shen’s war boats as they float out into the open ocean is simply fantastic. Kids will love it, heck I loved it. The first half may lull the parents to sleep, but the last half will definitely wake them up and have them interested until the end.
Kung Fu Panda 2 is half of a good movie, but at least the movie ends with the best part instead of starting out strong and finishing with a whimper.