As much as I loved the first Kung Fu panda movie, I was always a little bothered by the fact that it wasn’t really a very Chinese story. The theme of finding one’s destiny and believing in yourself is more of a western idea. One other thing that irked me was that it made no sense that a Panda’s father was a goose. Well, thankfully both those aspects are addressed in this movie. This very enjoyable sequel pulls out very Chinese themes such as revenge (almost every Chinese martial arts story deals with vengeance), sacrifice, and tragedy. The villain of the piece (voiced wonderfully by Gary Oldman) is a white peacock, who tries to get back at his parents by taking it out on all of China. When Po and his buddies the Fearsome Five hear about this new threat, they head out to stop him. Little do they know that this Lord Shen also has a connection to Po’s tragic past and is indirectly responsible for his coming to have a goose for a father.
Delightfully, all the voice cast is back, including Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu, Angelina Jolie as a taciturn Tigress, Jackie Chan as Monkey, Lucy Liu (Where’s her career at, eh?) as Viper, Seth Rogen as Mantis, and David Cross as Crane. Of course, there is no better voice casting than Jack Black as Po the panda (a.k.a the Dragon Warrior). Also back are the amazing visuals: from breathtaking scenery to butt-kicking action sequences, this movie is so fun to watch (though I don’t know about the 3D). It’s not like there’s anything wrong with the 3D treatment, it adds some nice visual depth to the movie, but after a few minutes I don’t even notice it anymore. Interspersed throughout the movie are flashbacks to Po’s childhood (and some traumatic events), which were actually done using traditional hand-drawn animation instead of 3D CGI (much like Po’s fantasy sequence at the beginning of the first movie).
While the story was pretty simple (most of the significant drama is around Po’s backstory), it was made up for in great animation, fun characters, and a very funny script. Jack Black also delivers his lines perfectly as both a courageous hero, and a cuddly goof. I don’t know how far Po is off from his real personality, but as far as animated characters go, it seems like a complete fit. If you enjoyed the first Kung Fu Panda, you’ll probably enjoy the sequel at least as much (if not more). You will also be touched by the father-son storyline (despite the fact that you’ll see every part of it coming from miles away). If only other movies (especially comedies) could have as much warmth, humour, and charm as this one (4.5 out of 5)