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The KUNG FU PANDA franchise

Updated on May 31, 2011

Po and friends are back

The Kung Fu Panda films

The adventures of the Kung Fu Panda named Po continue in the second entry in the franchise. I review the new film here, as well as re-posting my original review for the 2008 Kung Fu Panda.

Kung Fu Panda 2: (3 & a Half Stars out of 5)

The summer’s most unlikely action hero is back to save China and preserve the future of martial arts. Po the Panda, the hefty hero of DreamWorks’s 2008 CGI animated Kung Fu Panda is once again called upon to show his “total awesomeness” and overcome some personal demons in the process. Like the first film in the franchise, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a fun, fast paced romp, that delivers a harmless style of action and humor which is appropriate for kids but still entertaining for dads and moms.

When last we left the enthusiastic but clumsy Po (voiced by Jack Black) he had just proven himself worthy to hold the title of Dragon Warrior. The second film starts with Po enjoying his celebrity status as the idol of children all over the valley. His father Ping (James Hong) has opened a theme Dragon Warrior restaurant to cash in on his son’s new fame. Po has become good friends with his quintet of fellow defenders, known as the Furious Five. Tigress (Voice of Angelina Jolie) is the leader of the five, as well as the toughest and smartest. Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Lui), Crane (David Cross) and Mantis (Seth Rogen) comprise the remainder of the formidable force.

The group’s fighting talents are called upon to defeat an enemy who is not only a threat to the Valley but to all of China. An evil Peacock called Lord Shen (Well voiced by Gary Oldman) wants to conquer the country, as well as eliminating Kung Fu from the world. This alarms Po, who declares, “I only just got Kung Fu!” Po and his partners are sent off by their wise, old Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to a far-off city to stop Shen.

Evil Lord Shen may not look very formidable, but he can produce razor-sharp, knife-like feathers from his colorful plumage. Backed by his army of wolves and apes, Shen has already taken over the city that once belonged to his late parents. He defeats the city’s stewards/champions--Master Thundering Rhino (Victor Gerber), Master Croc (Jean Claude Van dam) and Master Oxen (Dennis Haysbert). The clever Shen is able to defeat these legendary martial arts warriors by using his deadly new invention--a cannon that fires flaming projectiles! The weapon is meant to destroy Kung Fu forever. Po wonders “How can I use Kung Fu against a weapon built to destroy Kung Fu?”

Shen has been warned of Po’s coming by an old soothsayer (Voiced by martial Arts star Michelle Yoeh) who predicted that Shen would fall to “an enemy of Black and White”. Shen also has a connection to Po’s hidden childhood which will explain why Po’s father is a goose. Po’s sense of identity is challenged by the facts he learns and only by following Shifu’s advice and attaining “inner peace” can he overcome his inner doubts and fears so he can find the mental clarity to battle this ruthless enemy.

Directed by Jennifer Yuh, the story is a bit darker than the original but not too harsh for the little ones to deal with. The comedy is mostly slapstick, focusing on Po’s klutzy heroism. We repeatedly see that Po is much more incompetent than his five friends, until he is properly inspired, and then he becomes unstoppable.

The action is frantic but well-animated. Jennifer Yuh keeps things moving at a brisk pace but never lets it get too out of control. The colorful visuals and the plethora of different animals make the film a lot of fun to watch. The celebrity voice talents fit their characters perfectly. Gary Oldman brings the perfect mix of humor and menace to Shen, while Dustin Hoffman is once again a delight as Shifu, who alters between sage wisdom and vexed impatience toward Po. Sadly, he doesn't get much to do in thid sequel. Several martial arts legends lend their voices to the film (Jackie Chan, Jean Claude Van Dam and Michelle Yoeh) although Chan and Van Dam don’t have much dialogue.

As in the first film, the underlying message here is the Buddhist belief of finding wisdom, truth and inspiration inside yourself, rather than seeking it from outside you. Po is always at his most inept when he fights for fun or glorification, but at his strongest when he finds something inside himself to motivate him to greater heights. But this isn’t a message film; it’s a lively, funny adventure. Kung Fu Panda 2 is good family fare and an excellent sequel.

{*Note: The film is being released in 3-D, but I was able to find a theater that showed in in traditional 2-D, so I can’t comment on the 3-d effects, except to say that some critics (including Roger Ebert) have said that the 3-D is not very good.}

Kung Fu Panda: (2008) - 3& a half Stars out of 5.

DreamWorks Pictures gives Disney and Pixar some strong competition in the computer-animated family film genre. Kung Fu Panda is a fun, inoffensive film with a good lesson about looking inward for inspiration instead of outward. Directors Mark Osborne and John Stevenson have collected a boatload of famous voice talent to highlight this action filled lark, which pays tribute to the classic films and TV shows about the Martial Arts, such as Kung Fu.

Our story follows a discontented and out-of-shape Panda named Po, (Voice of Jack Black) raised to be a cook by his adopted father, a goose named Ping (James Hong). Po loves reading and fantasizing about the Martial Arts, wishing he could lead a life of adventure himself. Po is excited on the day that ancient Grand-Master turtle Oogway (Randel Duk Kim) is due to announce the identity of the long awaited Dragon Warrior, who will bring lasting peace to the Valley.

At a huge ceremony, Oogway studies the contenders for the honored title. These master warriors are known collectively as the Furious Five. Individually they are Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Mantis (Seth Rogan). Po accidentally barges in on the proceedings and to everyone's shock, the untrained intruder is unexpectedly named by Oogway as the Dragon Warrior. Everyone is appalled, but no one more-so than sensei Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) who trained the Furious Five for years, hoping that his best student would one day help him erase a sin of the past by attaining a level of excellence that will allow the chosen champion to defeat a menace Shifu himself created year ago. Shifu thinks all hope is dashed now that a seemingly incompetent bungler has been assigned the role of protector of the Valley.

Elsewhere, an old enemy of the Valley escapes prison. Tai Lung the leopard (Ian McShane) --considered the most powerful of warriors--is on his way back to the village, looking for revenge, as well as hoping to purloin an ancient scroll which promises great power. Shifu tries repeatedly to get Po to quit so that a better warrior can be named defender of the valley. The plan backfires because the more Shifu insults and abuses Po, it only serves to increase Po's determination to prove that he can be something more than just a soup cook in his father's kitchen. Wise Oogway advises Shifu not to judge Po too quickly. Shifu soon starts to see the potential in Po and realizes that Oogway may have picked the right man after all, and so a short but intense training period begins. But Tai Lung is already on his way. Can Shifu turn Po into the Dragon Warrior in time to save the valley from Tai Lung?

Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman are excellent as the voices of Po and Shifu. Angelina Jolie's sultry tones are effective as Po’s envious rival Tigress. Real life martial arts legend Jackie Chan doesn't have much to say as Monkey, alas. Ian McShane hisses menacingly as the evil Tai Lung.The film overall is very entertaining and there are some exciting—albeit cartoonish--fight scenes, which won't be too violent for little children. The kinetic action scenes are well done, coming across as a mix of Japanese anime and Tex Avery.

There's a very Buddhist philosophy here, about seeking answers inside yourself rather than looking outward for guidance or inspiration. It’s a good message for people of all ages. This is a fun film.



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    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Thank you, HH. Good to hear from you.


    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      I rated you up on all four because your review was brilliant.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      Hi Cogerson; I think there are enough fun visuals to keep a 4 year old entertained. I hope you both like it.


    • Cogerson profile image

      Cogerson 6 years ago from Virginia

      Great reviews you have so busy writing lately I almost missed this hub. Kung Fu Panda 2 is on schedule for later today...and based on your reviews it should be entertaining for both myself and my 4 year old.....thanks for sharing your reviews....voted up and useful