Panda Po and his kung fu pals the Furious Five return to fight an evil peacock in Kung Fu Panda 2, a movie that feels a little like when a kid tells a funny joke for the second time.
Ha ha cute ha OK stop please.
Po (Jack Black), also known as Dragon Warrior, is a fully integrated part of the Furious Five. He and Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) fight bandits and assorted bad guys when they’re not practicing kung fu and learning the ways of the universe from Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). But there is a new enemy — Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a peacock with evil tendencies and some parent issues. He is ransacking villages to steal metal for a weapon that can defeat kung fu. When the Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five try to stop one such burglary, Po is shocked to see a familiar symbol, one that brings up memories of his past and possibly even his mother. He goes to see his father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), a goose, to find out what he can about his background. After revealing that, gasp, single bird Ping is the adoptive father of Po, the panda sets out to find Shen, protect kung fu and perhaps find out more about his past.
Can he do all that and acquire inner peace?
I remember Kung Fu Panda as being a big, giddy adventure that, sure, liked the Dreamworks fast-talk a little much but still offered up a good time complete with a solid message about believing in yourself no matter what size panda you are. Kung Fu Panda 2 is less of all these things. It has its fun moments, it has its sweetness, if it has a message it totally escaped me (other than, maybe, to love your adoptive goose father). It is perfectly fine, the way any given episode of any standard TV cartoon is perfectly fine, but you usually don’t have to fork out upwards of $7 per person plus 3-D glasses fees for a TV cartoon. I laughed, other kids in the theater laughed (a few made little shrieks at some of the scary crocodiles employed by Lord Shen) but nobody had to be helped up out of the aisles after rolling in them.
All of these tepid feelings may, I suppose, be in part the result of the movie’s final scene, one that made me wince a bit and feel like what I’d just watched was a really long prologue to a third movie or a movie that needed another 15 minutes. There is something calculated about the way the movie ends that highlights all the things I found flat and thin about the movie and left a bitter taste, like a harsh note at the end of a good piece of chocolate.
Over all, kids and their parents haven’t had a lot of great options for animated film in the last few months. Kung Fu Panda 2 might not be The One You’ve Waited For but it is decent entertainment until that one gets here. B-
Rated PG for sequences of marital arts action and mild violence. Directed by Jennifer Yu and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, Kung Fu Panda 2 is an hour and 35 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Dreamworks Animation. It opens on Thursday, May 26.