June 24, 2011

MOVIES: Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh, 2011)

Jack Black is back as the voice of Po, the kung fu master panda who's out to save China from evil with the help of his friends, the Furious Five.

This time, that evil takes the form of Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a white peacock who's discovered that gunpowder's not only good for fireworks, but it makes a pretty powerful weapon, too. It might just be a weapon strong enough to defeat kung fu for good.

Shen is a marvelous animated character, and his tail is practically a character in its own right; Shen uses it to punctuate his every word and gesture, cracking it open and close like a fan. He's a delightfully hissable villain, and Oldman voices the part with just the right amount of camp, never letting the silliness completely distract us from Shen's evil.

The movie's subplot finds Po and his adoptive father, the goose Mr. Ping (James Hong), finally coming to terms with their relationship, as Ping explains how Po came into his life. Turns out Shen was involved in those events, too, so when Po and Shen have their final showdown, it has personal significance for both.

The animation is beautifully done, with traditional animation used for flashback sequences in a way that smartly sets them apart from the high-tech look of the rest of the movie. An early battle sequence set in a village of musicians is ingenious, as the sounds of the battle become the score for the scene.

A solid piece of work. The kids will certainly enjoy it, and there's enough substance to keep the adults entertained, too.

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