Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: DreamWorks Animation, Comedy, Action/Adventure
Opens locally Thursday, May 26th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, Rated PG
Starring (voice talent): Jack Black, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Jean-Claude Van Damme
Directed by Jennifer Yuh (directorial debut)
I must admit that I never saw the first Kung Fu Panda, not on purpose, but I guess I just never got around to seeing it. From what I hear it was pretty funny and obviously successful as it spawned this sequel, with plans of having it be part of a 6-movie Kung Fu Panda saga (no joke) over the next several years. So without drawing comparisons to the first film, this 2nd installment in the Kung Fu Panda series is just a ho-hum run-of-the-mill animated feature. I'm sure it will be enjoyable for the kids, but it lacks originality and possesses no magic like that found in any Pixar film, or other great recent animated features like Disney's Tangled.
The plot basically picks up where the first film left off. Our panda bear hero, Po, is now the "Dragon Warrior" and guardian of his realm. It really boils down to Po battling a new villain who threatens to not only conquer the realm, but to rid the world of Kung Fu altogether. I guess we are used to the tried-and-true plot of good vs. evil, but we usually get some level of originality. Yes, this is a sequel, but it follows the storyline of any Saturday Morning Cartoon...a new bad guy hits the scene, and our hero has to find inner strength to fight him off. Guess who wins.
As I mentioned in my review of "The Hangover Part II," if a film is funny, it often allows you to excuse the other short-comings of the script and characters. "Kung Fu Panda 2" is that dreaded "kids movie" that doesn't have too much to offer the adults that actually take the kids to the theater. It's passable, and in 3-D it was visually exciting, but there was nothing to it, really.
All animated films seem to become major hits, and as mentioned, you should warm up to the idea of Kung Fu Panda being around for a while as there are several more films on the way. This movie actually ends on a cliff-hanger of sorts, setting up the 3rd film. But asking us to invest in this franchise for 4 more films, you would have thought that they would have established some level of character arc for our hero and his friends. We learn nothing more about Po than we know coming in, and no other character has any sort of development. Yes, it's an animated film and aimed at children, but is it too much to ask for movies like this to have us invest in the story and characters, especially when the plan is to unroll 4 more in the series?
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