Kung Fu Panda 2

[4.0 stars] Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) on IMDb

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I've long since outgrown any embarrassment: I like a lot of ostensibly-for-kids animation. This is another mighty fine entry from Dreamworks.

Aside: It must be frustrating for the Dreamworks animators to be universally recognized as "almost as good as Pixar". Even though that's very high praise in itself.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a sequel to… hold on a sec, let me check my notes… ah, here it is: Kung Fu Panda. The panda Po has been accepted into the fighting ranks of the heroic Furious Five, but he finds himself lacking what his master calls "inner peace".

But meanwhile, Shen, a villainous peacock (really), is aiming at domination of China via his transformation of innocent fireworks technology into heavy weaponry, effective against even the strongest Kung Fu. As it turns out, the peacock has a deep connection to Po's mysterious origins.

So: will Po find inner peace, defeat Shen, and discover the truth about his provenance? Sure. What kind of a kids' movie do you think this is?

Sometimes sequels are cold-blooded slapdash efforts by moviemakers to exploit the audience's good feelings about the original flick. That's not the case here. I was impressed all the way through with the attention to detail: little gorgeous throwaway things that live on the screen for only a second or two, but obviously the folks at Dreamworks put a lot of thought and (expensive) resources into. (Example: At one point, Shen tilts his head while looking at Po, just like birds sometimes do. The animators didn't have to do that. But they did.)

It's also very funny, but also—I know, I'm a softie—moving in places. The voice talent is great: Jack Black as Po, the great Gary Oldman as evil Shen, Michelle Yeoh as a wise old goat-soothsayer, and many others.

Last Modified 2012-09-24 11:04 AM EDT