You’re scared of the claw!

Theatrical Release Date: 05/26/2011
Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Featuring the Voices of: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Gary Oldman, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Michelle Yeoh, Dennis Haysbert, Victor Garber, James Hong
Rated: PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence.
Runtime: 1 hour, 30 minutes


What a lovely day for some Kung Fu.

Not wanting to miss out being one of the animated sequels to be distributed in 2011, “Kung Fu Panda 2″ is now in theaters eagerly anticipating a big box office take. (Aside from the already released “Hoodwinked Too“, there’s still “Cars 2″, “Winnie the Pooh”, “Puss in Boots” (I’m counting this spinoff), and “Happy Feet 2″ set to be released before next January)

Po the panda (Jack Black) and the Furious Five from the first film (I love alliteration) all return to take on a new threat: An evil peacock named Shen (voiced by the ever-brilliant Gary Oldman) who plans to conquer all of China. Of course, our heroes must figure out a way to stop him, though they’re aided by a few new Kung Fu masters; an ox (Dennis Haysbert), a crocodile (Jean-Claude Van Damme), and a rhino (Victor Garber). Even the great Michelle Yeoh gets in on the action, voicing a soothsaying goat (is there any other kind?).

Graduating from story artist on the first “Kung Fu Panda“, director Jennifer Yuh Nelson was in charge for the sequel. What’s most remarkable about her stewardship is the economy with which the film was handled. Coming in 2 minutes shorter than the original at exactly 90 minutes, the density of the story is nonetheless impressive.

We’re given the answers to how Po came to be the adopted son of a goose (James Hong’s ‘Mr. Ping’) through a litany of flashbacks which all utilize a stylized 2D animation style (that still pops in 3D). In doing so, Po manages to learn another skill which comes in handy for the final fight. And all of this is merely support and framework for the heroes’ main task of stopping Shen in his quest for power.

But perhaps the most exciting element of the production is that this is one of the few films so far to actually warrant dropping the extra dough for 3D glasses. As longtime readers are well aware, I’m critical of this new trend because most filmmakers haven’t managed to do it well enough. Nelson and her crew, however, nailed it; and that extra dimension does indeed add depth of field to the action the way 3D should. Frankly, while I’m sure I’ll enjoy watching this again once it hits the home market, I know I’ll also miss having the chance to experience it all in this way.

There’s not much else that needs to be said. If you liked the first film, chances are you were already planning on seeing the sequel. If you didn’t like it but are a parent, chances are you were already planning on seeing the sequel. Now you know that coughing up a few extra bucks for 3D is the way to go though, so reading this review wasn’t a complete waste … which is nice. “Kung Fu Panda 2″ gets a 4 out of 5, delivering on the laughs, the action, and the story. Here’s hoping the rest of this year’s animated crop measure up.

4 out of 53D Yes