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