When fathers see their sons maturing and taking unanticipated directions, basically good relationships can become difficult. This is true in “real life,” and it is a storyline captured frequently in animated films. It is a significant plotline in the “How to Train Your Dragon” franchise, and it is also a component of the “Kung Fu Panda” films, the first of which was reviewed yesterday. The plot continues in the sequel, “Kung Fu Panda 2” which was released in 2011.
As “Kung Fu Panda 2” begins, Po (played by Jack Black) no longer lives at home and is in an elite Kung Fu college of sorts. Although the still fulsome bear is now a more skilled martial artist, the graduate students, aka the “Furious Five,” are still more proficient and his professor Shifu (played by Dustin Hoffman) knows the eager student has much to learn. His studies are accelerated when he and the “Furious Five” are called upon to stop Lord Shen (played by Gary Oldman), a dangerous peacock, who is determined to become the new ruler of China. Meanwhile, Po learns that his earnest and hard-working dad, a goose who runs a noodle shop, is not really his birth father. This news unsettles him, and, like so many young heroes before him, he tries to learn about his birth family.
“Kung Fu Panda 2” has excellent animation and is very exciting. It has even more action and vibrant colors and textures than the original. The fight scenes are ballet-like in composition and a wonder to watch. Also, it is enjoyable to see the other members of the “Furious Five” as they each use their particular strengths to best Lord Shen and his evil cannon.
The cast is also impressive. Jack Black again does great work in the lead role. He is very funny, yet tender and sincere as he tries to become a better warrior, track down his roots, and ultimately be a better son. Gary Oldman, as always, makes a fun villain. Angelina Jolie is also strong as Tigress, Po’s friend who tries to help him find his way.
Like the “How to Train Your Dragon” series, the “Kung Fu Panda” series is excellent. They can be enjoyed by younger and older viewers alike.