When the trailer for Kung Fu Panda came out, I thought it looked terrible. After finally catching up with it on DVD, I was pleasantly surprised how charming it was. It’s not Dreamworks policy to let a good movie stand on its own so Kung Fun Panda 2 was quickly put into production.
A bit too quickly unfortunately. Last week I said Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was Shadow of the Thin Man. Today Kung Fu Panda 2 is really Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze. Obviously.
Both films had characters who were outcasts who ended up being accepted after they saved the day with their awesome fighting skills. Instead of having a new adventure to advance the story, it’s time to look back into their past. After seeing a mysterious symbol, Po (Jack Black) has a memory of his parents. He realizes that he was adopted and decides to figure out who his real family is. He says he also needs to know “Who I am,” which is one of the more annoying character goals because it’s usually just who they always were. So just like when the turtles learned the secret of the ooze, the new information really didn’t matter and was already assumed. What an exciting story!
Meanwhile there is a new threat by ways of Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a peacock with daddy issues. He uses gunpowder to make a weapon that will “end kung fu.” Lord Shen doesn’t really stack up as a worthy successor to the last villain, especially because he has a prophecy working against him. Whenever there is a prophecy in a film, it will always always always come true therefore removing any stakes and thrills.
Like the first film, the action scenes remain energetic and creative. One of the earlier scenes involving stopping some robbers is one of the highlights because it has all of the warriors fighting at once and working together. These scenes are good reasons for having so many characters, but when it comes down to plotting and dialog it feels crowded. I think Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) only had one line apiece in the whole film. My favorite character from the last film, Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is absent for majority of the running time.
Much like Shrek 2 felt a bit stale, but still watchable this one will entertain most of the original audience. However the last scene is a blunt set-up for the third film and that film doesn’t seem very interesting. I would try to beg that this series doesn’t become diluted, but this is Dreamworks. There has already been a lame Christmas special, a video game, a direct-to-DVD short film, rumors of a TV show, and at least two more movies on their way. It’s only going to get worse from here.