2011 Running time: 90 Certificate: pg Rating: 4
Kung Fu Panda 2 1S

Synopsis

In an animated adventure even more awesome than the first, the world's most unlikely martial arts expert Po (Jack Black) must prove his chops against the evil peacock Lord Shen (Gary Oldman). The bounder plans to conquer China with a fearsome new weapon. Together with his mentor Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the legendary 'Furious Five' - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan) and Crane (David Cross) - Po must undertake a journey fraught with danger, great responsibility, and even greater revelations.

Director

  • Jennifer Yuh

Cast

  • Jack Black

  • Angelina Jolie

  • Seth Rogen

  • Jackie Chan

  • Gary Oldman

Review

With the first outbreak of panda-monium walloping the global box office for over $630m, a second coming was inevitable.

But anyone expecting a bout of lazy sequelitis is in for a nice surprise. Because Kung Fu Panda 2 surpasses its illustrious predecessor in every discipline, from action and animation to wit and invention.

Beginning with one of several 2D animated sequences that break up the 3D/CG bulk of proceedings, we learn that China was once ruled by peacocks with a passion for fireworks.

Unfortunately, the dynasty's one bad egg - albino fiend Lord Shen (Oldman) - had to be banished for putting his firepower to evil use.

After years of plotting and perfecting his weapons, Shen retakes the city with an army of wolves. But annoyingly, a soothsaying old goat (Michelle Yeoh) prophesies that he will be vanquished by "a warrior of black and white".

Who could this monochromatic fulfiller of fate be? Tai Chi Penguin? Feng Shui Zebra? Of course not. It's our portly hero Po (Black), now a fully fledged warrior, just like his Furious Five friends. Though as his long-suffering teacher Shifu (Hoffman) knows, he still has much to learn.

As soon as word of Shen's misdeeds arrives, Po and the Five set out to free the city on a mission that will prove the ultimate test of their guile, stealth and general awesomeness.

Along the way Po discovers lots of cool stuff, like finding inner peace and who his real parents are. Astonishingly, it turns out that noodle-making goose Mr Ping is not his biological dad.

With bags of droll and dry humour to complement the kiddie-friendly slapstick (and even there, there's cleverness to gags such as a carnival dragon who swallows up and poos out anyone in its way), KFP2 is a real crowd-pleaser.

The attention to detail is admirable. Every move of every fight and chase scene - of which there are many - is clearly made to make a point. And made even more emphatic in 3D.

The only real flaw - and it's hardly fatal - is character overload. Obviously, it's Po's story, so it's natural that he should take centre stage. Which leaves many of his returning pals in the wings.

Apart from more world-weary wisdom from Hoffman's Shifu and Tigress Jolie finally showing her cuddlier side, there's no development time for Monkey, Viper or Crane, while Rogen's Mantis gets one joke and has to use it twice.

And though Oldman is a haughty delight as Shen, other guest vocalists barely register. Some might be able to pick out former 24 President Dennis Haysbert as a noble ox, but who knew his crocodile mate was Jean-Claude Van Damme?

Thankfully, by allowing actions to speak at least as loudly as words, director Jennifer Yuh Nelson and her team have dished up a stir-fry of visual and verbal treats to please every palate.