Kung Fu Panda 2

This might be the decade of the comic book movie, but it's certainly the century of the sequel. Or at least the weekend of the sequel. I'm sure that movie offerings on holiday weekends used to be a lot better than they seem to be these days. Really, though, I shouldn't complain too much, since it wasn't nearly as bad as I feared. I just have to complain about something, and the kids in the theatre were surprisingly well-behaved.

Anyway, I not only watched a kids' movie, but a sequel to a kids' movie that I haven't seen, so it could have been much worse. Jack Black (Gulliver's Travels) isn't exactly a favorite of mine, but like Seth Rogen of The Green Hornet, he's much more bearable as only a voice. No pun intended. Seth Rogen is the voice of the preying mantis, anyway. And when all you're hiring people for is their voice, it's a lot cheaper, so you have mega-super-A-list stars like Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie (Salt) in the same film without your salary budget being comparable to the GNP of a medium-sized country. (They voice Master Shifu and Tigress, respectively.)

Even I was able to figure out that the first movie was all about the panda, Po, and his dreams of becoming a kung fu master. Now he's succeeded, and famous as the Dragon Master, and life is perfect. Except of course it can't be perfect, not even in a kids' movie.

The wonderful Michelle Yeoh (Sunshine) voices the Soothsayer, a mountain goat (I think) who can see the future and finish everyone's sentences for them. She narrates the opening animation sequence, which is seriously cool. I was wishing the entire movie was done the same way, but I suppose that would have been a bit much. Anyway, you know how when there are anthropomorphized animals around, there's usually only one of each? Like here, there's the Tigress and the Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan, The Karate Kid). That's usually just for ease of reference, I think, but this time, there's a reason why there's only the one panda around, and that's what the opening sequence is all about.

It also introduces villainous peacock Chen (Gary Oldman from Book of Eli, where he was pretty equally villainous). He's (re) invented the newest doomsday weapon, the cannon. In a world where previously, a karate chop to the face was the ultimate deterrent, that is quite a step up. And it calls for serious intervention from the aforementioned Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five: Monkey,Tigress, and Mantis, plus Crane (David Cross, who voiced Minion in Megamind) and Viper (Lucy Liu).

Apparently, in the first movie, they were all such busy bees that no one stopped to wonder how a goose (Mr. Ping, voiced by James Hong, The Day the Earth Stood Still) had ended up raising a baby panda, but that particular elephant in the room gets dealt with here. (Sorry.) Mostly, though, this film deals with Inner Peace... when it isn't dealing with cannons, skyscraper-sized pagodas, and how sneaky pandas really are, that is. But as the Soothsayer says, between bites of someone else's silk robes, now is all that matters. The past is done, and what's important is who you are and what you do right this minute. I didn't realize it was such a deep, philosophical movie until just this moment, that's for sure.

So, unexpected as it was, I actually kinda liked this movie. The kids liked it, too. There was a dad across the aisle who very helpfully questioned his two kids while the credits were rolling as to exactly how much they liked the film, and they seemed to be giving it pretty high marks. Four out of five, and let's hope those two little girls knew what they were talking about. Now I need to go practice that Inner Peace stuff so I can be all Zen for the X-Men movie next weekend.

The Furious Five strike a pose.


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