Review: KUNG FU PANDA 2 (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Review: KUNG FU PANDA 2 (2011)


The first KUNG FU PANDA (2008) is a refreshing if formulaic animated feature that mixes kung fu element and Jack Black's iconic performance as the chubby panda, Po. The animated feature turned out to be a hugely successful in box-office, raking in $215 million in the U.S. alone and a whopping $631 million in worldwide grosses. Not only that, it also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature (which eventually went to Pixar's WALL-E). So naturally, it is inevitable that the studio greenlit a sequel in attempt to replicate the success of the first movie. Well, Dreamworks Animation has done that successfully when they made an equally successful sequel in SHREK 2 (2004), but not so for KUNG FU PANDA 2. It's really hard to believe but it's true: KUNG FU PANDA 2 suffers from the typical "sequelities" syndrome while lacking most of the charms and wits previously found in the first movie. Let's just say everything are more of the same.

After defending the Valley of Peace with great acclaim, Po (voice of Jack Black) is now a highly-respected Dragon Warrior whose enormous popularity also gained more business for his father's (James Hong) noodle shop. He is informed by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) that his next stage of his kung fu training will be focusing on achieving inner peace. But inner peace is hardly occurred inside the mind of Po as he begins to have vivid dreams of his past. He also starts to wonder what happened to his biological parents after all these years, and slowly learns the truth from his father that he's actually being adopted when he was a baby.

Meanwhile, there is a dangerous threat lurking somewhere where Po and the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen and Ben Cross) are called upon in a mission to stop the evil Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a wicked peacock who is hellbent to rule all of China with the metal-shooting cannon he's invented -- so powerful to destroy kung fu once and for all. But the mission turns complicated when Shen knows something about Po's past and that Shen is somehow related as well.

This time, returning screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger have decided to take the first movie's charming outlook into something a tad darker in term of its thematic materials (in this case, subject of a dark past that engulfs over Po's bitter memories). It's actually a step above, but that is just the surface. Beyond that, they have little idea how to expand their storyline cohesive enough to keep the viewers interested.

So, what really goes wrong? Perhaps you can blame all the lackluster appeal from first-time director Jennifer Yuh, who previously served as a story artist of the first KUNG FU PANDA movie. While she is certainly good on pacing her movie fast enough like a rollercoaster ride (evidently on the first 15 minutes or so, that blessed with a spectacular rickshaw chase scene and a daring escape from the collapsing pagoda), being fast and furious does not make a good movie. Instead, everything is pedestrian and Yuh prefers to go everything in the blind motion without bothering to polish her movie.

The cast, in the meantime, are now relegated to strict caricatures. Any sense of solid character developments are almost totally out of question here (except for Angelina Jolie's Tigress role who is now showing sign of vulnerability, which really doesn't explore much after all). Among the most disappointed of them all, are Jack Black who hams up his performance as Po and Gary Oldman's typically bad-guy performance isn't enough to make his Lord Shen character worthwhile enough to watch for. This Lord Shen is clearly pathetic, and after a worthy and strong opponent in the form of Ian McShane's Tai Lung in KUNG FU PANDA, this is what we get instead?

Still, the animation is top-notch and beautifully rendered (especially all of its exotic Chinese backdrops) while the action sequences have its few worthwhile moments.

KUNG FU PANDA 2 is a wasted opportunity that one might suspect this lazy sequel is more of a cash cow than a creative input. Let's hope if the studio decide to make a third entry, it will be better the next time around.


Jaccstev said...

It's good to know your opinion about this film. While not as epic and awesome as its predecessor that arrived on the expectation of a bad one, I think ‘Kung Fu Panda 2′ is still a pretty good sequel. It’s still epic and entertaining also manages to say something inspired and meaningful.

caseymoviemania said...

Hi Jaccstev... Yes, the sequel may have been inferior but the entertainment value is still there. Now I can only if the studio greenlit for third installment, let's hope they can do better.