June 27th, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2

Friday evening, June 24th, we went out to see "Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom," and enjoyed this second installment in the series very much.

In this adventure, the Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five are called upon to undertake one of the classic king-fu movie missions, "saving kung-fu"--which usually means demonstrating the continued relevance of martial arts in the face of invention of modern weapons. In this case, the insane peacock, Shen, has invented gunpowder cannon and intends to use them to subjugate China.

Jack Black reprises his lovable an unlikely Dragon Warrior, the panda Po, and has most of the story this time as he eventually recovers memories of his early childhood and the truth about how he came to be raised by Mr. Ping, the goose. The other major character is Shen, voiced by Gary Oldman. Oldman's vocal characterization combined with the animated character design makes Shen of the best mad villains we have seen in years (it takes a cartoon to really make eyes bug out--). With the exception of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), the Furious Five are basically just present in support, with minimal lines or action by Monkey (Jackie Chan), Seth Rogen (Mantis), Lucy Liu (Viper), and David Cross (Crane). We were, however, glad to see Tigress taking a larger place in the action, contrasting Po's native talent with Tigress' hard-won skills, ability, and leadership. It was also amusing to note martial arts movie veterans Jeanne-Claude van Damme as the new character, Master Croc, and Michelle Yeoh in the pivotal role of the Soothsayer.

The plot is surprisingly subtle and moral. Shen is a nasty and psychologically as well as physically spiteful villain, who tries to displace his own rage at his parents onto Po. Po shrugs this off. In a very nice avoidance of cliche, instead of becoming fired up with rage at Shen when he learns his parents' fate, Po is able to use the knowledge to achieve what he needs to bring about Shen's defeat.

We found the movie perfectly satisfying in 2-D. The scenery design and setting was if anything more beautiful and involved than the first movie, and the action witty and fun.

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