Review by Diana Saenger
Let’s face it, only a few studios really go all-out with animated movies, and DreamWorks is one of them. Having just visited their animation studio last week in Pasadena, I saw first-hand the many dedicated artisans and behind-the-scenes contributors who enjoy what they do. No wonder we are rewarded with such meticulous work in their films..
Po (Jack Black) hugs his father, Mr. Ping (James Hong)
In Kung Fu Panda, Po (voice of Jack Black) was just like a baby panda – adorable, loveable and a little difficult to keep in tow. And while his father Mr. Ping (James Wong) hoped one day Po would take over his noodle shop, Po wanted to travel his own road of destiny. That decision – against all odds – found him as the next Dragon Warrior in the Valley of Peace.
As with most peaceful places, there’s always someone who wants to cause havoc. In Kung Fu Panda 2, a tad more mature Po and his Furious Five kung fu masters Tigress (voice of Angelina Jolie), Monkey (voice of Jackie Chan), Mantis (voice of Seth Rogen), Viper (voice of Lucy Liu), and Crane (voice of David Cross) feel ready to take on those out for control of the Valley.
Po and his Furious Five
The new adventure includes some new foes Po must face as he searches for his origins and how to unlock a superior strength he feels is missing. When he’s threatened by the intimidating peacock Lord Shen (voice of Gary Oldman) and his secret weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu, Po is confidante at first. Then reality sets in and Po must dig deep, take the advice of his mentor Kung Fu Master Shifu (voice of Dustin Hoffman) and begin an alarming journey to find the strength to save his homeland.
There are many things I like about the Kung Fu movies, this one especially. The characters are clearly drawn. Bad or good, they teach us that no one is vanilla. Inside we might have part chocolate or – under a hat – strawberry hair. In other words, by maintaining a goal and staying true to ourselves we can overcome anything. And as Po learns, it helps to have a few loyal friends by our side.
Po learns the value of inner peace from Shifu
Screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger have penned a delightful story that is full of adventure, heart and some surprises. Fans of the first film who wondered how Po’s father could be a duck and where his mother was get some answers in this sequel. And even though Po is definitely growing up, his playful ways – along with Black’s ability not to overplay the role – makes for a delightful movie hero.
The animated characters and back ground sceneries are fantastic. Taking off those dreaded 3D glasses that muted most of the beautiful colors, it was easier to enjoy the exquisite work by the DreamWorks animation team. I didn’t even mind seeing some of the scenes blurred to enjoy the colors. It’s too bad so much work that went into the layers of the film’s beauty is muted by the object that’s intended to enhance it.
Few films today – adult or children’s – expose a world of culture, history, danger, and the simple security of knowing who you are and how you got here. Kung Fu Panda 2 excels at this. It’s a great film for kids old and young, and I look forward to number three.
Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation /Paramount Pictures
families and animation fans