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KUNG FU PANDA 2

KUNG FU PANDA 2

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a 2011 animated film directed by Jennifer Yuh that serves as a direct sequel to the 2008 film, Kung Fu Panda. Now that Po (voiced by Jack Black) has been named the Dragon Warrior and knows the ways of kung fu, he has teamed up with the Furious Five to keep the people of China safe. When Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) learns that the evil Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman) is slowly and methodically destroying the kung fu masters, he sends Po and the Five to stop him and save kung fu. Along the way, Po starts to learn about his mysterious past, ultimately discovering that it is strangely intertwined with Shen's own past. Despite being sent to dispatch of Shen's evil plot, Po finds himself desperately seeking the answers of his own life, putting the lives of the Five - as well as the rest of China - in jeopardy.

As far as sequels go, I'd have to say that Kung Fu Panda 2 is definitely a legitimate addition to the story we received three years ago. It's not easy to make a sequel that lives up to an original film as good as that 2008 venture, and although I don't think this film quite reaches those heights, it's definitely worth giving a gander if you enjoyed Po's first go-around. At its core, we're getting a two-component screenplay. On the one side, we have the linear storyline of Po and the Five doing their best to combat Shen's path of destruction. However, the intertwining story of Po's early days is cleverly inserted bit by bit as he slowly accesses the full memory of his past. I did have a couple of issues with the screenplay, however. At times, it seemed like it was making some pretty drastic jumps in time and logic. There was many a moment that I thought some crucial scene of explanation had been missed. As the film continued along its path, most if not all of my questions were answered, but I personally thought that this was one story that didn't benefit from jumping straight into the action. We got all of the answers, but there was a good chunk in the beginning where I personally felt confused.

Like the first film, the caliber of voice acting is very good this time around. Jack Black does well with our titular character, but the vocal performance doesn't seem as novel as it did three years ago. I thought that Shifu, one of my favorite characters from the first film, was a tad bit under-utilized. In fact, I think that most of the Furious Five (voiced by Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan and David Cross) was a little less present than in the first film. Tigress (Jolie's character) gets a little bit more of a story, but that's about it from our other kung fu heroes. If there's anyone who's fantastic, it's the addition of Lord Shen, a peacock hellbent on taking rule of China. With a dash of superb animation - especially with his eyes - and the voice of an always-creepy Gary Oldman, Shen makes a rather menacing villain for this particular film. I applaud the creation.

Speaking of the animation, I'd have to say that Dreamworks has once again outdone themselves. It's top-notch, really, although it doesn't quite reach the visual brilliance offered by Rango, but it's definitely a beautiful sight to behold. Again, major kudos to Dreamworks for their effort here.

Overall, I'd have to say that Kung Fu Panda 2 is a fun continuation of a story that I have loved since it first hit theaters in 2008. Although this film doesn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor, it serves as a great successor in almost every regard. Would I say you have to see it in theaters? Maybe, if only for the visual aspect. Take that away, and it's definitely a for-sure rental in the future, but the beauty of the visuals should be enough to draw you to the theaters. It's a fun ride regardless, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: B
1.5 Thumbs Up