DreamWorks’ “Kung Fu Panda 2” is a spectacle of explosions and roundhouse kicks, a kid-friendly, energetic thrill-ride that’s a worthy sequel to the first KFP. Jack Black‘s panda Po, the Dragon Warrior, is back in all his glorious ridiculousness, and the Furious Five are now his steadfast friends and allies. Since defeating Tai Lung, a new villain has arisen in China: Gary Oldman-voiced Lord Shen, a wily, cunning peacock with a flair for the explosive and an army of skulking wolves at his back. Shen hopes to conquer China. To beat him, Po must journey inside himself, to discover the truth of his past and unlock the strength and skills he needs to defeat this technologically-advanced enemy.
Screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger are back from KFP, and bring audiences a fun story with a similar flow to the first. KFP 2 is a natural progression in the life and times of Po, and Jennifer Yuh, the head of story and supervisor of action sequences from the first film, was the natural choice to take the series to the next level. She does so with more action, and solid backstory, while keeping the film as light-hearted as the original.
There’s even more play on the characters’ animal nature in KFP 2, from a hilarious “revelation” scene when the panda Po finds out that – surprise – his goose father adopted him, to the Soothsayer goat (Michelle Yeoh) stereotypically trying to eat Lord Shen’s cloak and Mantis (Seth Rogen) waxing eloquent about his hopes for a future when he can settle down with a praying mantis wife who will ultimately eat his head off.
The vocal performances in KFP 2 are all solid, with Jack Black’s Po leading the way, supported by a strong Gary Oldman as Lord Shen and Angelina Jolie as Tigress. Martial arts experts play many of the supporting roles, packing the film with a great conglomeration of action and Kung Fu film stars, including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Yeoh.
Substantially, the film moves Po beyond the atrocities that Lord Shen committed against his family, and shows that facing your past and reconciling with it brings inner peace. Additionally, Po sees his adopted father as his real one in a touching moment at the end of the film. The Soothsayer goat is a little odd, but not too dark, and fits the film’s Eastern nature.
Aside from that, KFP 2 is more of the same from DreamWorks and Jack Black, but after KFP, who wants anything different?