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December 13, 2011

5

DVD of the Week – Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

by NIR SHALEV

When Kung Fu Panda (2008) first appeared, out of the blue it was a huge success. Fusing Kung Fu lore with a 3D animated family film was a terrific idea and it worked mainly due to its cinematography, fight choreography, and sheer amount of various colors. Now comes a rarity: a sequel that trumps its predecessor in virtually every department.

When we last saw Po (voiced by Jack Black), he accepted his place in the universe and became a Kung Fu master. Now, while saving a small village from a small group of invading enemies, an insignia worn on one the enemy’s uniforms triggers a memory that Po didn’t even know he had. The memory contains a female Panda that may or may not be his mother. Po wonders whether his father, a goose named Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong), is actually an adoptive parent and seeks to find out the truth.

A new enemy arrives and threatens to destroy the art of Kung Fu itself. Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman), a peacock, has nothing but contempt for all living creatures and believes that Kung Fu and those that have mastered it stand in his way of world domination. He gathers all of the metal that he can find and manufactures canons capable of destroying anything and anyone. But Shen’s past is connected to Po’s biological parents and the plot thickens.

A story of such magnitude was hugely unexpected, as I walked into the local theater in order to watch the latest animated film that stared a talking panda bear and his friends; a tigress, a crane, a grasshopper, a red panda (Master Shifu), a snake, and a monkey. The film’s sole purpose of enthralling the audience with a story is entirely unexpected given that most family films work entirely with funny characters’ quirks and funny animation.

Kung Fu Panda 2 features terrifically choreographed and fluidly animated action and fight sequences and a very elegant, shiny look. The sky is always red, showcasing impending doom but without morbidity. It’s simply a more dramatically focused approach to a kids’ film and I find that it works very well. Kids will like the film because its animation is beautiful and the film is colorful, and adults will enjoy it even more because of the action sequences and the emphasis on character development (something that most family films grossly lack- Alvin and the Chipmunks, this means you!).

Rango is the best animated film this year and one of the most beautiful looking films I have ever seen. But Kung Fu Panda 2 managed a close second place finish and that’s impressive because I hadn’t expected a single other animated feature to even come close. This film is a welcome surprise and I hope that more viewers will seek it out now that it’s out on video.

There is a single-disc DVD version of the film, a two-disc special, and a Blu-ray combo pack. The two-disc DVD version comes with an all new Po adventure, “Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters” and a sneak peek episode of the upcoming Nickelodeon TV series “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness.” The Blu-ray exclusive additions are The Animator’s Corner; a Trivia Track; and Animation Inspiration.

Original Commentary Track review of Kung Fu Panda 2 by Helen Geib.

Other new releases this week: Contagion, Dolphin Tale, Fright Night, The Legend Is Born: Ip Man, Rise of the Planet of the Apes


5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dec 15 2011

    I love the big panda and look forward to his continuing adventures, but having just watched “Puss in Boots” I have a new favorite animated film for 2011.

  2. Dec 15 2011

    I don’t want to sound negative but I hate everything about Shrek 2 (Shrek 3 doesn’t exist and I haven’t watched the last one). When the first film came out it was astoundingly fresh and hilarious and was a huge surprise. Then the second came out and I found it to be utterly plain and boring… and when they introduced the Puss in Boots character I felt nothing. And here’s why: I don’t know the character. I didn’t grow up with him so I don’t know his story, his style, of his style of comedy (if any). I didn’t like him in Shrek 2 because he was a silly cat who sounded like Antonio Banderas and thought that he was charming, but he was just a cat (maybe I’m missing something). Now that he got his own spin off, I grew rather upset. I see nothing to like about the character nor does he have any charm, and yet he has his own movie. Then the movie became successful and, apparently is really good.

    What’s going on, Helen?

  3. Dec 15 2011

    Here’s where I’m coming from: I haven’t seen any of the Shrek films (no, not even the first, although it’s on my “someday” list). Nothing in the concept, the trailer, or the reviews inclined me to see “Shrek” and the reviews for the sequels obviously did nothing to change my mind. So, I had no feelings one way or the other about the Puss character or how the spinoff might or might not fit into the Shrek universe, and I don’t know whether the character is played the same or not.

    The Puss in “Puss in Boots” is simultaneously charming and ridiculous, a combination I found endearing and funny. The movie has a completely standalone story, as far as I could tell; if there was any effort to tie it in to the Shrek series it was subtle enough to not stand out to a non-fan. The more obvious reference points are classic adventure films. The animation is marvelous and I loved the voicework by Banderas and Salma Hayek, who plays Puss’ love interest Kitty Softpaws.

  4. Dec 15 2011

    There’s the problem right there: you haven’t seen Shrek. It’s one of the best and smartest comedies of its decade. I hated the first sequel because while it tried to appeal to a younger audience its main aspect of satire was Hollywood itself. I found it self indulgent, just like actual Hollywood, and weak. The third film was just awful. There was nothing good about it at all and it looked dreary, like.shooting it on location with natural lighting so that castle interiors looked terribly dark.
    I hadn’t watched the fourth and final film because I have lost interest after the first film. I hear that it make sup for the third film but I’ll never know.

    And here’s tidbit for you: I am the only person in the known galaxy that hates Shrek 2. Every person finds it to be as good or better than the first film and that’s shocking to me.

    But I’ll check out Puss in Boots on video. :O)

    And I’m digging the new look!

  5. Dec 15 2011

    Good to both. :-) I will watch “Shrek” (eventually!) and the new look is a work in progress so (hopefully) will only get better. :D

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