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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Kung Fu Panda 2

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  4_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Kung Fu Panda 2  (3-D)

Po is back as the pudgy panda with pugilistic power.  Now known as the Dragon Warrior in his hometown, the Valley of Peace, Po (Jack Black) and his posse of kung fu pals with famous voices, known as the Furious Five, make sure the valley stays that way.  Along with Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen) Monkey (Jackie Chan) Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross), Po cherishes his role as protector of the land.  Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) still dispenses wisdom and Tai Chi movements for every occasion, guiding Po whenever he’s consulted.

Disturbing this blissful scenario is a cocky bird – literally - a peacock called Master Shen (Gary Oldman) who decides he wants to rule the world, or at least China.  Isn’t there always some megalomaniac troublemaker who wants to control way too much real estate?  Shen also wants to render the noble ancient art of kung fu obsolete by introducing explosives (by way of fireworks) into battle.  Shen harnesses the power of China’s pyrotechnic invention and uses it as a weapon against its helpless population.  Quick! Someone page the panda.

Meanwhile, Po’s memory is triggered regarding his panda parents who abandoned him long ago, and Master Shen holds the key to the mystery.  Po’s adoptive goose father, Mr. Ping (the venerable James Hong) frets over Po’s recollections.  The noodle shop owner worries about losing his son, both physically and emotionally.  He knows Po must embark on his quest to defeat Master Shen and is not sure if he will ever see his son again.  We don’t worry about that – this is a franchise after all.

Po and posse embark on a mission to defeat Master Shen and his wolf army.  After all, a peacock army would be pretty silly now, wouldn’t it?  We know Master Shen must have some kind of power to control species that would otherwise devour him.  But I digress.

Battles ensue on Master Shen’s turf, with comedic dialogue interplay tucked in between.  One particular favorite, from Po: “Ah, my old enemy…stairs!”  Seems the Dragon Warrior is skillful, but about as fit as the Chinese equivalent of a couch potato.  Would that be a sha-fa dumpling?  Close enough.

There are slow motion shots, explosions, kung fu moves, and surprising acrobatics from the very un-athletic panda.  The story arc bends pretty much where you think it will, but it’s a clever, aesthetic, clash-filled journey along the way.

Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Can’t Buy Me Love) imports all of the elements that made the first film so charming – the panda/goose devotion. Po’s self-doubt, the Furious Five co-horts, an evil threat – and expands it to include Po’s search for his roots.  Writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger keep the wisecracks coming, mostly at Po’s expense, which works for both the viewer and Jack Black, who inhabits Po with an easy, self-effacing insight.  The 3-D effect works here, enhancing the dimensions of the impressive scenic landscapes as an active participant, doing its job without darkening the screen or languishing as a passive, unnecessary novelty.

Additional voices are provided by Dennis Haysbert, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Victor Garber, Danny McBride, and Michelle Yeoh.

Kung Fu Panda 2 retains custody of its predecessor’s heart, expanding Po’s story to include his past and showing us just enough to foreshadow the start of another journey for our black and white, delightfully doughy adoptee.  A good title might be Kung Fu Panda 3: Finding Po.

No doubt there’ll be quite a few (million) volunteers wanting to join that search party.

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