Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) - Full of Wisdom for Kids

Kung Fu Panda 2 DVD cover
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011).

"Kung Fu Panda 2" (2011) continues the adventures of our hero, Po the Panda, in the Valley of Peace as he fights to keep the world safe for right, justice and his father's noodle shop.  It is the animated sequel to the wildly popular "Kung Fu Panda," starring the voices of Jack Black as Po, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan and Ian McShane. The new villain, a peackcock, is voiced by Gary Oldman. The peacock has a deadly new weapon that could lead to the downfall of China.

Main characters of Kung Fu Panda 2 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
So  much red it's... hurting... my... eyes

The first film was DreamWorks' best performer outside of the "Shrek" and "Shrek 2" league. Po Ping has become a master warrior, the fabled Dragon Warrior who can defeat anyone in battle. Trouble, though, lurks on the horizon. Lord Shen (Oldman) of Gongman City has a grudge to settle with the rulers of China and has fashioned a cannon that threatens not just the Valley of Peace, but the entire land. Shen invades, and Po and the other leading martial artists go out to stop him, but they are captured.

Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
The man, close up, "Kung Fu Panda 2."

Po and the others manage to escape and destroy Shen's cannon, but Po is troubled. He keeps having troubling flashbacks whenever he sees a certain symbol on Shen's equipment. He is so distracted by this that Shen escapes. Tigress (Angelina Jolie) asks Po about his problem, and he responds that Shen has something to do with his real parents (his current parents having adopted him). Po blunders around, messing up an attack on Shen by Tigress and the others and causing them to be captured.

The Soothsayer from Kung Fu Panda 2 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Tell me a sooth, sayer!

While Po recuperates in his deserted village of birth, he remembers more. Apparently, his mother had hidden him in a radish crate (where he was later found) and then lead Shen's army away. Remembering this helps Po  recover his sense of balance, and he returns to battle Shen. They fight to the death, with all of China's fate in his hands.

Po in fighting stance Kung Fu Panda 2 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
I told you I don't want cream in my coffee!

Wise sayings abound in this film. Nothing is said that is too profound, more along the lines of "believe in yourself." Below is a small sample:

“Now… The most important time is now…” Soothsayer

“Anything is possible when you have inner peace.” Shifu

 See that’s the thing Shen, scars heal. Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda: “You should Shen. You got to let go of the stuff from past – because it just doesn’t  matter. The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.”

“Once I realized the problem was not you but within me. I found inner peace and was able to harness the flow of the universe.”

“Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are, it is the rest of your story, who you choose to be… …So who are you Panda?” Soothsayer

Nothing too controversial is said in "Kung Fu Panda 2," but it is still good to reiterate positive thoughts in an animated feature film.

Po in fighting stance in Kung Fu Panda 2
Fighting stance, boys!

Director Jennifer Yuh keeps the action flowing, and the addition of intense 3D fight scenes helps pull the narrative forward. There are some darker themes present in Po's past, but nothing too dramatic. The film almost slips into Po's subconsciousness at times before pulling out and showing yet another fight scene.

Mantis from Kung Fu Panda 2 2011 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
He looks like Jiminy Cricket, Mantis in "Kung Fu Panda 2."

You might not think that a peacock could be threatening, but the animators pull out all the stops and make him a credible adversary. There is some similarity to the first film in the storyline, but there also is enough difference to make this story seem fresh.

Jack Black posing next to a giant fake panda for Kung Fu Panda 2 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
Jack Black looks uncomfortable as he promotes "Kung Fu Panda 2."

As you would expect for the sequel to a smash-hit first film, this one did very well at the box office. It is the 11th-highest grossing animated film of all time. The film did particularly well in China, where it set opening-day records and earned $93 million. In fact, it did well throughout Asia, which is a pretty cool (and big) area to do well in.

Po reading in Kung Fu Panda 2
Po looking very puzzled in "Kung Fu Panda 2."

If you ever go to China, you might want to stop in Chengdu. That is the city the animators visited while making this film to get a feel for the structures and the artwork. Mount Qingcheng also served as inspiration. The soundtrack isn't bad, either, featuring many Chinese themes.

A peacock in Kung Fu Panda 2 movieloversreviews.filminspector.com
He doesn't LOOK dangerous, but everyone has skills in "Kung Fu Panda 2."

"Kung Fu Panda" and this film fit together very well. There are no radical course changes as in Pixar's Cars and Cars 2. The colors are vibrant, the voice actors perfect and comfortable in their roles, and the story engaging enough to keep you thinking throughout. Best of all, it is almost like visiting China for a day. Overall, this is an improvement over the first film, much as Shrek 2 was a step up from Shrek.

Do yourself a favor and get a blast of culture by watching "Kung Fu Panda 2."


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