Thursday, May 26, 2011

KUNG FU PANDA 2 - Pandamonium Reigns

KUNG FU PANDA 2 (animated comedy)
Cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Gary Oldman and Michelle Yeoh
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Screenplay by: Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel
Time: 91 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Po (centre) and the Furious Five are back!

PREAMBLE: It's Pandamonium time again at the box-office everywhere and if you are thinking of catching this sequel of Kung Fu Panda, better make it soon before the hordes of kids do so during the coming school holidays. Be warned, be prepared.

SYNOPSIS: Po the Panda (Jack Black) is living his dream as a Dragon Warrior when the world of kung fu is threatened by Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a power-hungry peacock who has built a weapon of mass destruction that would render hand combat useless. Meanwhile, Po is also having nightmares about his birth and his natural parents. With a noodle-chef of a goose as his father, it is only natural for Po to wonder who he really was.

What Po doesn’t know, however, is that Lord Shen holds the key to his history and who he really is. Working with the kungfu masters known as the Furious Five (voiced by Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan), Po is not only on a mission to save China, but on a journey of self-discovery. Does he have what it takes to outwit the treacherous Lord Shen and his minion wolves?

HITS & MISSES: Unlike so many sequels these days, here's one that is actually better than the original. The storyline is engaging and intelligently written; the characters are nicely developed and interesting; and for once, it pays to watch this one in 3D because it provides real depth and emotional impact to the action sequences.

Korean-American director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who was the story artist for the first Kungfu Panda (as well as Madagascar), shows extraordinary flair for presenting adult themes, like identity, parental influence, 'inner peace' and fate, in a way that even children can understand and appreciate. The movie's prologue, about Lord Shen's banishment, is creatively rendered in paper cut-out format, and we know we are in for a classy fun ride.

What Kung Fu Panda 2 lacks, though, is the spontaneous fun and frolic of the original. There are fewer laughs here, probably due to the nature of the plot that caters to both kids and adults. I have always associated Jack Black with crude and outrageous humour but there is none of that here. In fact, many of his lines are witty and smart-alecky - and even touching. Among the supporting cast, Angelina Jolie gets more screen time and lines as the Tigress here, as do James Hong (as Po's Dad) and Michelle Yeoh as the Soothsayer. Panda 2 is slightly darker in tone and more emotionally complex than the first.

THE LOWDOWN: It should pack a huge kick at the box-office.



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