Directed by Jennifer Yuh
Jack Black as Po
Angelina Jolie as Tigress
Dustin Hoffman as Shifu
Gary Oldman as Shen
Jackie Chan as Monkey
Seth Rogen as Mantis
Lucy Liu as Viper
Kung Fu Panda 2 is one of those rare sequels, like Aliens or The Empire Strikes Back, that completely outmatches the first film. The voice cast is perfect, the animation is top notch, and there’s plenty of great action and comedy to go around. It’s an incredible achievement for Jennifer Yuh, considering this is her very first film as a director.
Po is living his dream as the Dragon Warrior, but is told by Shifu that he is yet to master Inner Peace. While fighting off a pack of wolf bandits who have been stealing refined metal for Lord Shen, Po is distracted by a symbol on the head wolf’s armor, which causes Po to have a flashback of his mother and allows the wolves to escape. Po asks his goose father, Mr. Ping, where he came from, but all Ping can tell him is that he found Po as an infant in a radish crate and adopted him.
Lord Shen is a peacock who sought to harness the power of fireworks as a means of conquering China. A soothsayer predicted he would be defeated by “a warrior of black and white”. To prevent this, Shen organized a massacre of all the pandas in China. His horrified parents banished Shen from Gongmen City, and now Shen has returned to fulfill his ambitions of dominating China.
Shen is a better villain than the first film’s Tai Lung. The film brings out his insecurities, fears and complexes, even his guilt over the things he has done. He’s a much deeper character than Tai Lung, who was simply out for revenge.
Turns out Po was adopted! Whouda thought?
Po eventually realizes that he and Shen have crossed paths before, and only this new enemy will be able to solve the mystery of Po’s origins. Jack Black’s work here is tremendous, alternating between the serious and the comic.
This is a film that deserves to be watched multiple times. If there’s a drawback, it’s the unnecessary 3D that dims and distorts the image. Animated films rise and fall on their visual appeal, and the 3D makes the image far less vibrant than it should be.
RATING (OUT OF FIVE)