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Kung Fu Panda 2
Po the Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five to the rescue
You want to know what the real difference between Dreamworks' animated films and the ones that are released by Pixar? It's simple. Pixar rarely ever releases sequels but when they do, it's only because they know that the story they have in mind brings something original to the table. Sure, they may sometimes retread over certain themes like in the "Toy Story" franchise, but they always manage to retread it in a different way. Bringing in new concepts, and innovative ideas that not only expand the characters' perspective worlds, but it never feels like you're watching a sequel that retreads over the same themes. No, like a bottle of fine wine, Pixar's sequels always seem to get better with each progressive film. Whereas Dreamworks' philosophy?
Their philosophy is to milk the hell out of a concept until it virtually dies. Coming up with great original films like "Shrek" that explore a lot of universal themes that we can all relate to; while cleverly mocking every fairy tale cliche ever written. Sure, it was a great concept at first, then it started to become boring. Seriously, did we even need three "Shrek" sequels? One sequel would've been plenty, but Dreamworks got greedy and produced sequel after sequel; while introducing nothing to the original's universal themes other than adding new characters with each film. Sure, "Shrek Forever After" did bring something new to the table, but it wasn't enough to resurrect a dying franchise in desperate need to just die out. As for what this has to do with "Kung Fu Panda 2", I'll get to that now.
When the original "Kung Fu Panda" came out, I honestly felt it was arguably one of the best animated films ever made. Not only did it tie into many ancient Chinese martial arts mythology, it also sent a powerful universal message that still speaks to it's audiences to this day. Sure, it was cliched and predictable, but it was a great story about a young Panda aspiring to be like his heroes. Then only to realize that to be like his heroes, all he has to do is believe in himself, and things will always work out just fine. In "Kung Fu Panda 2", it's the same thing, but there's a little added twist involved.
Sure, there's more characters involved but at the root of things, the emphasis of this new movie is basically the same. You have the Furious Five who're the real heroes that Po (Jack Black) aspires to be like, then there's Po himself. The highly uncoordinated fat Panda, who seems to be the last person anyone would suspect would to be the hero. However, looks can be deceiving, as "Kung Fu Panda" teaches us that you don't necessarily have to be like your heroes to accomplish great things. No in the end, you only have to believe in yourself to accomplish great things in life. Does that mean this sequel is a bad film? Not exactly, as it's still fairly well told. Sure, it may not be as great as it's predecessor, but it's still one of the better animated films out there in theaters.
As some of you may know, the movie basically picks up where the last one left off. Po is now a well respected ally of the Furious Five, who each happen to be the same animals representing the martial arts form they specialize in. Tigress (Angelina Jolie) practices Tiger crane style while being an actual tiger. Crane (David Cross) practices crane style. Monkey (Jackie Chan) is a master of monkey style. Mantis (Seth Rogen) is a master of Mantis style, and Viper (Lucy Liu) excels in...well you get the idea. To make a long story short, Po is now revered as a hero among his village, since he successfully became the dragon warrior.
And like the last movie, there's another prophecy where Po is destined to vanquish a new enemy that he must confront. However, this new villain has a deep connection to Po's past; one that has secretly scarred Po early in his life that he must find out answers to. However, as Po learns in the movie, life isn't about living in the past, but it's about who you choose to be going forward is what really matters. Although that message does get undermined by the twist ending of this movie, it's still a powerful message that's carried out quite well.
The humor is basically the same as the last film, as you have Po who literally makes a fool out of himself trying to live up to his legacy; while the Furious Five try desperately to cover his a**. And, a threat that only Po can defeat alone, as he's China's last hope for survival against a powerful weapon that could potentially destroy anything that stands in it's path. Will Po succeed again in fulfilling his prophecy? Or will he become another victim of this awesome super weapon? I guess you'll just have to watch the movie to find out.
Although the film does tend to retread over themes that were popular in the last "Kung Fu Panda", the movie is surprisingly entertaining. Still offering deep character developments and story content to keep even most avid movie fan entertained; while remaining simplistic enough to where it never loses it's appeal to kids. Sure, "Kung Fu Panda 2" won't win any points for originality, but it's definitely a strong sequel for what it is.
Jack Black is still pretty funny, and never misses a beat as always. The rest of the voice actors are excellent as well, as the characters' personalities and relationships are more fleshed out in this movie.
As for the 3-D animation, I would have to say that I was a bit disappointed by it. Sure, the animation looks great, but the 3-D cinematography is barely noticeable at best. Therefore, if you see this film, then I'd probably pass seeing it in 3-D. Trust me, you won't miss much.
In the end, I would have to give "Kung Fu Panda 2" a three out of four. Sure, it's not as great as the original, but what sequel ever is? All I can say is if you're looking for a good family film to enjoy this summer, then look no further than this movie.