Kung Fu Panda 2
The cinematic landscape is littered with
sequels that failed to capture the charm of the original.
And it is always a kind of balance: the
creative originality can’t be duplicated, but any departure from it is a
gamble, because the old characters may not excel in the new script.
Happily, “Kung Fu Panda 2” manages
to strike a workable balance. The
characters from the premier installment are still there, but this is a
different type of adventure, though the persistent casualness of the main
(the voice of Jack Black) still sets the carefree tone, and keeps all of it
far less serious than it sounds.
Po, now a famous Kung Fu master through
, is still his bouncy, gregarious, approachable self.
His best friends are the same ones who gave him such a hard time in the
esteemed training school in the first installment, though it’s not really
necessary to know that in this story.
still visits his (adopted) Dad, in the noodle shop, but still wonders about
where he really came from. Old, buried
memories somehow come rushing back to him when he meets Lord Shen (the voice
of Gary Oldman), who’s determined to take over
under his malevolent rule. Lord Shen
amasses an aggressive army, and our little band of talented kung fu fighters
are all that stand between him and his evil empire (yes, it feels a little
like the Star Wars plot).
We figure we know how it’s going to
end, but the unlikeliness of the scenario at least contributes a little
surprise to the plot. In the particular
screening which this reviewer attended, there was a technical glitch, and the
film had to be freeze-framed a few times, and from that perspective, it was
even more apparent what incredible art work is on display in this 3-D
animation. Yes, the scenery is
beautiful, even if it is, purely, computer graphic imaging. This adds to the
likability of this adventurous animated tale.
Sure, there are some obvious
politically-correct morals embedded in the story, like how it doesn’t matter
what ethnicity you are, what matters is what you decide to make of yourself.
Like it doesn’t matter if the people who raised you were not your
“natural” parents, what matters is who loved you then, and who loves you
now. And, of course, the importance of
friendship that won’t disappear in the rough spots.
“Kung Fu Panda 2” really is
embraceable by the whole family. Kudos
to them for a sequel that works.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor, United