I thoroughly enjoyed the first Kung Fu Panda, but I know the reputation that sequels tend to carry. Still, I went into the theater for Kung Fu Panda 2 expecting to be mildly entertained, at least. I love most animated movies, especially the Pixar greats–Up, Wall-E, Nemo…
Kung Fu Panda 2 was beyond a pleasant surprise–it was probably one of the best movies I’ve seen this year (and I see a lot of movies). It was exactly what a sequel should be. All the original voices were back, and the storyline took full advantage of the characters’ most lovable and distinct traits, building on them without being redundant (I’m looking at you, Hangover II). The new villain had both admirable depth for a cartoon character and was the perfect mix of sinister and ridiculous.
I was surprised by the darker overtones in the movie, with its opening hints of (SPOILER ALERT) genocide against pandas. Clearly a nod to the parents in the audience with their children (and the college students, like me…). The movie explores themes of vengeance, changing times/technology, relationships between parents and children–rolling them up into a familiar sort of coming-of-age story. That’s a lot to pack into what is ostensibly a children’s movie.
Beyond the strengths of the surprisingly interesting and well-plotted storyline, the movie itself is a visual feast. The action moves more swiftly and beautifully than real life ever could, while the camera panning over the candy-colored China of Dreamworks’ imagination is simply breathtaking. I didn’t watch the movie in 3D ($15? No thank you…), but I can imagine how stunning it would be.
4 stars for beautiful imagery and good storytelling but occasional pops of cheesiness (naturally–it IS a movie marketed for children).
Go see it!