Sean K. Cureton

Dreamworks Finds a New Shrek in Kung Fu Panda 2

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on June 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Theatrical Poster

Kung Fu Panda 2
Directed by Jennifer Yuh
3 ½ out of 4 stars

In 2008, when Kung Fu Panda came out, no one knew exactly what to expect. The ad campaign was very simplistic. The poster didn’t reveal anything about the plot except for the fact that Jack Black was lending his voice to the title character, and all anyone really knew about the film was that it would be another Dreamworks production. When the film hit theatres, many people were taken aback by how original and funny the film actually was. Despite the fact that martial arts based films have been done again and again, Kung Fu Panda didn’t feel like any other films of its shared genre. Instead, it offered an engaging, if somewhat predictable, plot with voice talents that really breathed life into the animated world that Dreamworks had created. With such a successful first film, the next step for Dreamworks was obviously to make another movie within the same world using the same characters. Typically, sequels are bad, clunky, and fail to live up to the first film in the series. That being said, it’s always nice when a sequel surpasses the standards set by the film that preceded it.

With Kung Fu Panda 2, Dreamworks has continued the story they started in the first film while maintaining and expanding on the characters and the world that they inhabit. This time around, Po, the titular character, finds out about his past, and takes on Shen, voiced by Gary Oldman, who attempted to kill all of the pandas in China after a soothsayer tells him that he would be defeated by a warrior of black and white. Again, Dreamworks takes a fairly standard martial arts plot line, that of a warrior avenging the genocide of his people, and turns it on its head and makes the whole thing feel new and wonderful. It also doesn’t hurt that the film is also laugh-out-loud funny, and sentimentally genuine and touching.

The film also boasts some of the best animation work that Dreamworks has done since the Shrek franchise. All of the environments in the film are so bright and vibrant and continually engrossing for the viewer. Beyond that, the CGI animation that is used throughout most of the film is also interspersed with beautiful hand drawn sequences meant to alert the audience to the flash backs that take place within the film’s plot.

All in all, Kung Fu Panda 2 is just as surprising as its predecessor, in that it too is surprisingly great and engrossing. The actors who were around to lend their voices the first time return, and pick up right where they left off with the first film. If you still haven’t seen 2008’s Kung Fu Panda, order it from Netflix, watch it, and then go to see Kung Fu Panda 2. You won’t be disappointed.

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