Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson. Starring Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman.
Everyone was out to watch the ‘awesomeness’. Follow up to the 2008 hit, everyone’s fuzzy, cuddly and kick-ass panda is back as the Dragon Warrior. He and his Furious Five are out on yet another kung-fu fighting adventure that’s pretty much the same old thing. But the sheer charm of the characters, the luminous animation by Dreamworks SKG and the gargantuan voice cast make this one the week’s clear hero.
You have to hand it to Hollywood. They’re in a bit of a slump as far as fresh ideas for films are concerned what with all the remakes, rehashes and incessant sequels (do we really need a Fast & Furious 5?). But they can’t let their latent creativity simmer under their hats for too long. And fortunately for them — and us — animation is a worthy competitor and substitute to live action films. So yes, we have some animated sequels like this one that will ride the tails of their successful predecessors. This year will see Cars 2 as well (what next, Planes?).
Okay here’s another preface before I get into the review. I was talking to my fellow reviewer Rashid Irani before the press show and we both pretty much agreed that 3-D has become quite a nuisance nowadays. Every second film wants an ‘enhancement’. So they’re all going in for the animated equivalent of Botox and silicone implants. Some of them are clearly fake like the ones shot in 2-D and then ‘converted’ into 3-D. All this is taking away from story, script and dialogue. And sometimes it’s just a waste as was the case in Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Very few films in the past have justified a 3-D or Imax 3-D tag (Tron Legacy and Alice In Wonderland come to mind). Oh by the way, Paramount showed us the film in 2-D and I think we were all quite happy with that.
Panda Po and his friends are challenged with the loss of kung-fu. “But I just got kung-fu,” retorts Po to Master Shifu (Hoffman). And so physical combat must battle the mighty powder canons of Lord Shen (Oldman), the evil white peacock dealing with family abandonment issues. But like him, Po deals with his own family abandonment nightmares and it is this storyline that infuses the film with warmth and charm. How did Po become the son of the goose chef Mr Ping? Why is he the only Panda around (apart from the whole extinction thing)?
My grouse with Kung-Fu Panda 2 is that a lot of the characters in the Furious Five get lost. They are almost superfluous and just instruments to take the action forward. And it’s a pity considering the voice cast also includes Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh and many more.
The scenes where Po has visions of his childhood are wonderfully animated in 2-D line drawings surprisingly giving the film more depth than any amount of 3-D could ever do. The action scenes carry on endlessly and mostly whizz by you leaving you with very little to deduce whether it’s kung-fu or wrestling. But when you have a character like Po, supported by some excellent voice talent and awesome animation, you’ll still leave the audience full of inner peace.