The story begins with a fable about Shen (Gary Oldman), a peacock hungry for revenge after being kicked out of his kingdom by his parents. Unless he and his fire breathing weapon are stopped it could mean the end of Kung Fu, but how can Kung Fu stop a weapon that can stop Kung Fu? That is the question Po (Jack Black) and the rest of the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie as Tigress, Jackie Chan as Monkey, Lucy Liu as Viper, Seth Rogen as Mantis and David Cross as Crane) must ponder as they try and save China and their sacred martial art.
“Kung Fu Panda 2” doesn’t exactly improve on the original, a surprise hit from 2008, but it maintains status quo. The new film is a little sketchier with the story—there is a subplot about Po’s real parents that only appears to have been included to add some heart to the mostly action storyline and to set up a threequel—which seems to take a backseat to the frenetic, but kid friendly, action scenes, but it’s buoyed by some high kicking animation and good voice work from the leads, particularly Jack Black and Oldman, as Shen, the silky voiced villain.
The 3D doesn’t get in the way of the beautiful animation, and actually adds a layer of excitement to the action scenes. The animation, both in the present day scenes and Po’s vibrant anime inspired sequences, is a cut above any other non-Pixar work out there.
The film, like all good martial arts films is heavy on the action scenes, but the best stuff isn’t the big set pieces but the smaller set pieces. When Po, disguised as a parade dragon eats a baddie and then digests him and… excretes him out the back end of the costume it’s imaginative and kid-tastic fun. The wilder scenes are nicely put together but the smaller intimate scenes have more punch.
“Kung Fu Panda 2” is just one of 27 sequels hitting theatres this year, but so far it’s one of the better ones.