Kung Fu Panda 2
(PG) Voice talents of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Lui, Seth Roagan
People tend to bemoan sequels for their lack of originality but I have to confess this is a sequel I wanted to see. Po (Jack Black) has to be one of my favourite animated characters and the original Kung Fu Panda one of my favourite non-Pixar films.
Po’s lack of guile and sense of awesomeness is by no means diminished in this excellent new sequel and it seems only fitting that, like other heroes, he gets an origin story.
As the film opens, a prologue shows a sinister plot by the villainous peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) has been brewing. A fireworks expert, Shen was building the perfect weapon to use to install himself as the new ruler of China.
Realising Shen’s evil intent, his parents banish from the kingdom.
In the first film the Furious Five weren’t given a lot to do but this has been rectified in this sequel. Indeed, Po and the five are now well-established in the art of protecting villages in the realm and Po is honing his kung fu skills.
Mr Ping (James Hong) is still running the noodle restaurant — only now he has special Dragon Warrior meals on the menu.
When Master Shi Fu (Dustin Hoffman) summons Po to discuss his latest mission, he tells him that, now he has mastered the art of kung fu, he must find his “inner peace”.
As his tummy grumbles, Po asks, “Inner piece of what?”
Po is also plagued with visions of his childhood, leading him to question Mr Ping about his father — but it seems in seeking inner peace he may just find the answers he is looking for.
The story wastes no time in putting our heroes in the thick of the action and the martial arts and kung fu fighting sequences are amazingly choreographed.
Tigress (Angelina Jolie) is given some key scenes which will obviously translate well to the next film.
Endearing characterisation is what makes these films such a joy to watch and the animation, particularly in the dream sequences, is truly gorgeous.
First time director, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, orchestrates some truly awesome action segments. This, along with her all-star voice cast, assures that, from a storytelling perspective, the franchise should have longevity.
The film’s closing frames suggests another instalment is on the way and, frankly, this reviewer can’t wait!