Kung Fu Panda 2 is a fun movie with incredible animation and, like the last installment, a great ensemble of voice talents. I wasn’t as enamored with the story as some, although I do like it wasn’t a mere rehash of the original.
Genre(s): Animation, Comedy, Action, Adventure
DreamWorks Animation | PG – 90 min. – $49.99 | December 13, 2011
Directed by: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Writer(s): Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger (written by)
Cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Michelle Yeoh, Danny McBride, Jean-Claude Van Damme
Theatrical Release Date: May 26, 2011
Features: Commentary, Animators’ Corner, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Trivia Track, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.5/5
Over the past decade or so, the animation wars have heated up and although Cars 2 was a bad entry into the illustrious portfolio, Pixar is still king but the battle for second place continues with DreamWorks Animation taking the lead over Fox Animation. Thanks in part to 2011’s sleeper hit, and solidly cute and adventurous flick, How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks Animation has made strides though Shrek placed the studio on the map… While Megamind wasn’t well received (I enjoyed it) and Shrek the Third has been lauded, the others in DreamWorks Animation arsenal have produced entertaining movies including Kung Fu Panda.
Now comes Kung Fu Panda 2 which has been considered by critics and regular audience members alike to be a film that rivals the best Pixar has had to offer. Personally, while I found the film to be fun with a good amount of brilliant action, I wasn’t entirely enthralled at the end. It doesn’t have the emotional quotient of Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo or even How to Train Your Dragon but it is on par with Madagascar and Shrek Forever After. Take that for what you will.
In the movie’s prologue, Shen (GARY OLDMAN) was heir to the peacock clan which ruled over Gongmen City but when the court’s goat Soothsayer (MICHELLE YEOH) tells Shen of “a warrior of black and white” would stop him from Shen’s ultimate goal of ruling the entire country of China with the power of fireworks, he assumes it’s somebody within the land of Giant Pandas so he sets out to exterminate every one of them… including Po’s parents. Due to his horrific actions, Shen’s parents send him away and disown their son.
Years later, Dragon Warrior Po (JACK BLACK), this time a full fledge and accepted member of the Furious Five as they take on the villainous Lord Shen who has resurfaced to continue his dream of ruling china with the power of cannons which will keep the masses under control, along with dangerous and vicious rhinos serving as the muscle. Po’s origin also is examined as Po discovers, via nightmares started when he sees a mark on one of Shen’s goons, that he is in fact adopted. He must deal with his past in order to fulfill his destiny to stop Shen and his evil schemes.
The voice casting once again is excellent. Jack Black returns as Po and brings the necessary energy, mania and lovability that carry the film especially since it’s once again primarily his story. However, while Jack Black is the most vocal of the group, Angelina Jolie’s Tigress gets some character development as she connects with Po and his predicament while the others still play a secondary but still important role from Jackie Chan as Monkey, Seth Rogen as Mantis, David Cross as the neurotic Crane, Lucy Liu playing Viper and Dustin Hoffman in a smaller role again as Master Shifu. Although Po is the primary player, the writers manage to show the team atmosphere as they have to work together. New to the franchise are the aforementioned Yeoh, Danny McBride as Shen’s minion Wolf Boss, Dennis Haysbert and Jean-Claude Van Damme as Masters Ox and Croc respectively and Victor Garber playing Master Rhino (another one of Shen’s minions).
Kung Fu Panda 2 is a cute, finely animated movie and has established DreamWorks Animation as second only to Pixar in terms of storytelling and style. Now, I wasn’t wild about the story this go around mainly because I found the action wasn’t as compelling but the comedy was well written and, of course, the voice talents were once again top notch. I did like that they didn’t merely rehash elements already covered in the first film and actually moved the story and characters forward. On that front, I appreciate this sequel; otherwise it didn’t make much of an impact on me.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.75/5
The two-disc set comes housed in a standard Blu-ray case with a semi-glossy slip cover.
Filmmakers’ Commentary – The track includes Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Producer Melissa Cobb, Production Designer Raymond Zibach and Supervising Animator/Kung Fu Choreographer/Story Artist Rodolphe Guenoden. I wasn’t sure if this would be a group commentary or something spliced together so I was pleasantly surprised to hear they’re all together in the same room. Each speaker provides their own account on making the movie as well as giving anecdotal info with bits of trivia on the animation.
Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters (23:00; HD) is a short animated program – starring the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman and Seth Rogen – follows Po and the Furious Five telling the story of Kung Fu legends.
Animation Inspiration (0:31; HD) – This is just a collection photos where filmmakers visit different locations in China for inspiration to be used in the film. Not sure why it’s only on the Blu-ray, though… ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
The Animators’ Corner – This is a picture-in-picture track where you get to hear from the filmmakers, including select scene commentary, and cast talking about working on the production. It’s intermixed with storyboards and concept artwork as the film plays. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Trivia Track – Here you get bits of, well, trivia as the movie plays. It’s nothing particularly special but provides some info and even an “Inner Peace” counter. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness (23:50; HD) – This is an episode of the Nickelodeon animated series, ‘Has-been Hero’ which, according to Wikipedia, is the last episode of the first season.
Kickin’ It with the Cast (12:42; HD) – This is a behind-the-scenes featurette showing the cast at work recording their lines as we’re introduced (or re-introduced) to the characters.
Deleted Scenes (4:21; HD) is a set of 3 test scenes that didn’t make it into the final cut. Each comes with an intro by the director.
Panda Stories (7:44; HD) is an educational featurette on pandas and saving the species.
Kung Fu Shuffle – This is an interactive feature where you can play two different games: “Barrels of Bunnies” and “Baby Po’s Great Crate Challenge”.
Ni Hao – Another interactive feature where you can select words from KFP2 and learn how to speak and write it in Mandarin. I suppose it’s a good place to start as any…
World of DreamWorks Animation – Here you can check out previews and soundtrack music for Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and Megamind.
Preview – Puss in Boots
The second disc includes a barebones DVD/Digital Copy combo disc.
Also in this set are 2 free online game memberships to Kung Fu Panda World where you and a friend can register and play the game.
VIDEO – 5.0/5
DreamWorks Animation once again scores a success on Blu-ray. Kung Fu Panda 2 is presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and 1080p high-definition. Obviously animated movies, unless cheaply done, greatly benefits from HD and this is no exception. Colors are absolutely stunning but never pumped up to the extreme. There were no signs of pixilation, artifacting or even banding making this is a clean transfer.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD track is no slouch either with a nice kick during the action scenes but also has enough subtlety for the quieter, more dialogue-driven, scenes. I can’t say it’s an incredibly aural experience but it’s still pretty damn good. Most of the action comes through the center and front channels but you can still hear ambient noises coming via the rear speakers while the bass gets a lift during various scenes.
OVERALL – 4.0/5
Overall, Kung Fu Panda 2 is a fun movie with incredible animation and, like the last installment, a great ensemble of voice talents. I wasn’t as enamored with the story as some, although I do like it wasn’t a mere rehash of the original. The Blu-ray itself boasts excellent video and audio transfers as well as a solid compilation of features making this a worthwhile purchase if you enjoyed the film.