Kung Fu Panda 2 Review

Three years ago, another CGI animation hit our screens. For once, Pixar was not responsible, yet it had all the ingredients of a successful children’s film – cuddly creatures, colourful characters, well-constructed and presented scenery and plenty of action, complete with a good story. The film was Kung Fu Panda, a rather ridiculous story of one overweight panda called Po who becomes a destined martial arts master of legend. This year, the panda comes ‘back for seconds’, though is it time this panda really started to lose weight?

The story follows on straight from the first. I’ve only seen the first film once, which was a while back, and it took me a decent ten minutes before I actually recalled the events of the first film. The story starts off with more coy philosophy that is supposed to send up the martial arts films of the 1970s. Given that the whole film is based on this prologue though, it makes the story a very linear and straightforward affair. You can pretty much predict the whole narrative based on the opening sequence alone – though this is film aimed at children, so we’re never expecting Inception here.

The fast and furious pace is established early on – rarely does the film slow down for breath. This has been done many times – the characterization has been set up in the first film, making the sequel jump headfirst into action scenes and almost completely forget characterization or plot development to any decent degree. Thus you find yourself after only about ten minutes on an adventure with a bunch of animals out to stop an evil peacock called Shen. The only noticeable development in terms of any plot or character comes in the form of Po trying to find out what happened to his real parents (though as aforementioned, it’s nothing you can’t read clearly in the opening sequence).

The only thing this film ultimately has to rely upon entirely is a sense of fun – lucky then, that it manages to pull off the ‘adventure’ part very well indeed. The action scenes, although very speedily edited – are as varied and as colourful as a CGI animation can get. From racing through the streets of a city in a lion costume, to descending and then re-ascending a crumbling tower going up in flames, the imagination is rarely spared as the animals beat their way through one close shave to the next.

Half of hollywood turn up to do their part – Hans Zimmer is on sound, Gary Oldman is in ‘rent a villain’ mode, and other new additions to the cast such as Dennis Haysbert lend their hand to the old familiar vocals, making a medley of voices throughout that you definitely know from somewhere. Facial animation is very well handled and up to scratch (it would be a sorry film if it wasn’t). Most of the jokes hit the mark, making for some memorable one-liners. The jokes work for kids and adults alike, and fans of martial arts will appreciate the in-jokes throughout. ‘Cuteness’ is taken all the way up to extreme (dangerous levels to be honest), meaning if you don’t like seeing huge cuddly fluffy animals cry, you’ll probably find some parts of this film hard to get through without showing up in front of your friends.

But all things considered, for such wafer thin story and non-existent development in characters, this film is surprisingly fun. It is simple, it does absolutely nothing at all to challenge the genre or the audience, and I also thought some of the jokes fell a little flat. But enough of this film works to get away with it – my recommendation is to avoid it if you haven’t seen the first one, otherwise you may find yourself struggling to grasp what backstory there is. The action is relentless, and film stops before the pace gets too repetitive. This second helping is just more of the same, but done with care nonetheless. If your looking for something colourful and cute to kick back to whilst leaving your brain at the door, this is a film for you.

8/10

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