Reel Rating: 5 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence.
Released in Theaters: May 27, 2011 (2D & 3D)
Genre: Animation, Sequel, Comedy, Family, Action, Adventure
Runtime: 90 minutes
Directed by: Jennifer Yuh
Cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Danny McBride
Official Site: http://www.kungfupanda.com/
SYNOPSIS: Po the Panda is back, and this time he’s dealing with daddy issues. He’s figured out that his dad isn’t his biological dad – he’s a goose, after all – but the secret of Po’s origin is tied to a powerful villain with an unstoppable secret weapon, and it will take the Furious Five’s teamwork to stop it.
Violence/Gore: Lots of martial arts fighting and hand-to-hand combat. No one is seriously hurt, but characters are tossed about and briefly knocked out. A large, mechanical weapon threatens to take out all of China. Baby Po is separated from his parents, whose death is implied. Youngsters are caught in the midst of a wild chase scene, but all ends well.
Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 6 and older who love fast-paced, animated movies with a message. If they liked the first “Kung Fu Panda,” they’ll love this one, too.
Will Parents Like It? There’s a fair amount of fighting, but as mentioned, no one is seriously hurt. The story offers positive lessons about friendship, teamwork, and family (which isn’t always defined by blood). There’s also a great message of acceptance and the inner peace that comes with releasing emotional baggage.
REVIEW: It would have been easy for director Jennifer Yuh to rest on the laurels of the first “Kung Fu Panda” movie. Just make a similar movie, throw in the same colorful action, and rely heavily on Jack Black’s ability to deliver awesome, skadooshy lines.
Thankfully, she didn’t go that route. Oh, “Kung Fu Panda 2″ has the same feel as the first movie, as well as plenty of fast action and great lines. But she took it a step further and seized the opportunity to offer positive messages about family, friendship and never giving up, even when you think all is lost. These are excellent things that kids can unconsciously apply to their real-life situation.
The story follows the further adventures of Po (voiced by Jack Black), the plump panda who became the mighty Dragon Warrior in the original movie. The underlying theme here is that a person’s outside appearance doesn’t necessarily translate to their skills and abilities.
Now Po is a well-trained martial arts hero who’s tasked with defeating a powerful villain armed with a massive mechanical weapon that threatens to take out all of China (subtle message about real-world politics – and the fact that one person can make a difference?).
He’s still working with those accomplished warriors, the Furious Five — Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Monkey (Jackie Chan). Along with Po’s teacher, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), the group must defeat the evil Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) and his massive weapon.
But every time Po sees a certain symbol, he has a flashback to his early life and remembers the pain of losing his parents. He’ll need to summon up inner peace to make things right. All of these elements, along with some heavy-duty but subtle positive messages, turn this into one of the best family sequels to grace the screen in a while.
And the kids in the theater where I saw the movie loved it. It’s always a joy to watch a movie and hear the laughter of young kids, and know that a movie isn’t talking down to them (or their parents).
I especially love that Po comes to terms with the fact that his goose-father Mr. Ping (James Hong) IS his real father, despite the fact that he was adopted. It’s the nurturing and love that counts. What a great message to give to adopted kids who might be questioning their own origins.
And even with all the deep messages, the film is still very fun and whimsical. I didn’t see the 3D version, because it usually distracts from the overall strength of a movie. But in the case of “Kung Fu Panda 2,” I have a feeling it would only enhance it.
JANE’S REEL RATING SYSTEM:
One Reel – Even the Force can’t save it.
Two Reels – Coulda been a contender.
Three Reels – Something to talk about.
Four Reels – You want the truth? Great flick!
Five Reels – Wow! The stuff dreams are made of.
Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Syndicate her family movie & TV reviews in your publication; visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email firstname.lastname@example.org.