DVD Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

by | Dec 14th, 2011 | 8:58AM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movies

DVD Review: Rather than revisit the scenes and slapstick routines of the first movie, Kung Fu Panda 2 widens its scope to include more epic martial-arts adventure. But what it sets aside in Jack Black-ian humor, the new film makes up for with gorgeous visuals and thrilling, well-executed action sequences.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Redbox.


In 2008, the first Kung Fu Panda surprised a lot of older animation lovers (and parents repeatedly subjected to it in theaters and on DVD) with its sly laughs and warm heart—thanks in no small part to a fine celebrity vocal cast led by Jack Black as the black-and-white hero-in-waiting Po and Dustin Hoffman as his reluctant kung-fu teacher Master Shifu.

(Kung Fu Panda also marked a shift in tone at DreamWorks Animation, expanding from the pop-culture fizz of movies like Shrek and Madagascar toward more visually rich, character-driven stories, eventually resulting in the high achievement of last year’sHow to Train Your Dragon.)

In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po is no longer the comic panda-out-of-water striving to learn the kung-fu way—he’s now a full-blown (and still over-sized) adventure hero forced to better himself in the face of larger threats. If the first film was a kids’ comedy with action,Panda 2 is a kids’ action film with comedy.

This time Po and his multi-species Furious Five team (Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Jackie Chan, and Lucy Liu) must head to the louder, grander Gongmen City to take on the evil Lord Shen, a strutting peacock (literally) of a kung-fu villain, voiced as all such villains are these days, by Gary Oldman. In his quest for power, the screeching, scheming Shen has embraced that most vile enemy of honorable kung fu: the cannon.

Along the way Po, like any Joseph Campbell hero, has yin-and-yang lessons to learn about inner peace and mysteries to unravel about his panda past, but for the most part, Kung Fu Panda 2 is less about character interaction and more about actioninteraction.

This time out we unfortunately don’t get as much Hoffman, Jolie, Rogen, and Cross and Jack Black’s skiddily-boop riffing, but a lot more epic-sized spectacle and adventure, all of it deftly handled by DreamWorks Animation artist and first-time director Jennifer Yuh.

Like most action and comedy sequels, Kung Fu Panda 2 is bigger, busier, flashier, and more expansive, with an emphasis on thrillingly choreographed action and stunningly beautiful cinematography. Giant towers topple, fleets of gun boats sail down canals, and battles dash and dance through the vast city’s streets and over its rooftops.

But while it’s still plenty of fun, the movie also feels a little older, wiser, and even a skadoosh more serious. This willingness of the Panda series to grow alongside its young fans makes (the clearly set up) Kung Fu Panda 3 something not to dread but welcome.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Redbox.

 

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