Well, technically, the sequel’s called ‘The Kaboom of Doom’, but considering we’re reviewing how good the new Kung Fu Panda movie was, I figure the title was appropriate.
In this new movie, Po (Jack Black) has already become the dragon warrior, and needs to master inner peace in order to take the next step of his kung fu journey. However, he’s busy being awesome and silly while protecting China from Lord Shen, our new big bad. Incidentally, Lord Shen has also perfected gunpowder and is destroying all the Kung Fu masters he meets with cannonfire (hence the Kaboom of Doom title). Cue Shenanigans.
Gary Oldman is a twitchy old coot as Lord Shen, and his earlier fight scenes with the Kung Fu masters are really well choreographed. I was a big fan of how they used the Peacock’s tail as part of his martial art style, mimicking the blocking and distractionary tactics that fan wielders used. It’s too bad that the animators didn’t do more of that; Lord Shen ends up using more weaponry than martial arts, which means we don’t get to see that sort of animated creativity that occurred in the first part of the movie.
As much as I love the quiet craziness of Lord Shen, where this movie shines is in Po’s interaction with his Duck of a father. I’ve always been a fan of James Hong, remembering him from old classics such as Big Trouble in Little China, and I’m glad that in his decades as an actor, he’s been able to get out of the ‘Evil Villain with a Fu Manchu’ stereotype that he was stuck in last time. Issues like adoption and what makes a parent a parent aren’t usually tackled in a non-Pixar CGI movie, and that sort of depth makes the movie all the better.
Sadly, aside from the 3 old guys (Dustin Hoffman as Shifu, James Hong as Po’s Dad and Gary Oldman as Lord Shen), the rest of the acting wasn’t great. Jack Black still has his traditional ‘fribbety frabbetty boo’ type lines, but he was a long more animated and crazy in his Tenacious D bits, and seems a little bit lacklustre here. And even though they’re technically big names, you almost don’t even notice Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu or Seth Rogen.
If you are however just watching the movie for a laugh or two though, it shouldn’t disappoint. There are good one-liners, and two great setpieces spring to mind: the fight with the bunny musicians that brings another meaning to ‘duelling banjos’, and the ‘Stealth Mode’ bit where Po and the furious five are in a Dragon costume; which was hilariously reminiscent of both Pac Man as well as harkening back to the Wong Fei Hong movies which featured lion dances. It’s only too bad that those really occurred in the first half of the movie, which left me sadly hungry for more during the rest of the movie.
I think, in the end, that’s what left me a bit unsatisfied. Kung Fu Panda was entertaining the whole way through. The second movie left me wanting to see of Po’s interaction with his Dad. And more fights with Lord Shen. And more visual hilarity. And it didn’t follow up. Don’t get me wrong, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a pretty good movie. And pretty entertaining. But it could’ve been a great movie.
Oh, and Dreamworks? Even though you want to milk the Kung Fu Kash Kow, that doesn’t mean you should straight away add in a cliff-hangery reveal that suggests the next movie. Not cool.
Rating: 6/10 (would’ve been 7/10, but -1 for blatant sequel flashing)