While it’s hard to believe, Kung Fun Panda 2 actually surpasses the first film by building upon everything that made it great. From the awesome characters, to the incredibly fluid animation, Dreamworks has outdone themselves by taking the franchise to another level, making for a fun and emotional ride that families all over are sure to enjoy. I absolutely loved the original film, so I knew I was in for a treat when the sequel came along. I just wasn’t expecting for it to be such a hilarious, yet touching and emotional action-packed feature like it is.
My fellow reviewer Chris Pandolfi agreed and loved the movie when it was in theaters. Check out a snippet of what he had to say below, and his full review can be found right HERE:
“There are hints of a growing friendship between Po and Tigress, always the more hard-hearted of the Furious Five. I suppose this will eventually lead to a reliable interspecies romance, but let’s take things one at a time. After all, part three has yet to be released. These characters are only a small part of what makes Kung Fu Panda 2 an all-around wonderful film. The animation – a skillful blend of CGI and traditional hand-drawn cels – is boundless in its energy. The scenery, although entirely manufactured by the art directors and layout artists, are breathtaking in their beauty. The dialogue is kid-friendly, but never once does it play dumb. There’s depth to the characters, and yet they also retain a certain amount of delightful cartoon goofiness. It’s a film that the whole family, and not just the kids, will enjoy.”
I really liked how the reamworks team touched on the relationship between Po and his adoptive father Mister Ping. Add in the fact that the film’s villain also has parental issues of his own and you have a surprisingly emotional ride that some may need tissues for (I’ll be honest, I did). The whole gang (of heroes) returns, with Jack Black as Po, Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu, Angelina Jolie as Master Tigress, Jackie Chan as Master Monkey, and the others all joining the fun. Even better are the new characters, especially Gary Oldman as the villainous peacock, Lord Shen, as well as Michelle Yeoh as the constantly hungry Soothsayer. Even Jean-Claude Van Damme makes a brief, but memorable, appearance as Master Croc. There’s still plenty of laughs and awesome kung fu action to be had here as well, which all plays out beautifully with fluid animation.
And speaking of beautiful, the film’s transfer to Blu-ray is nothing short of stunning. Every color and detail shows up perfectly here, which helps the animation look all the more amazing. The 7.1 DTS-HD kicks plenty of butt as well, as every punch, kick, and explosion from firework cannons comes in crystal clear.
I love how the Blu-ray menu calls the extras “More Awesomeness”, as that’s exactly how I feel about them. There’s audio commentary by director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, producer Melissa Cobb, production designer Raymond Zibach, and supervising animator Rodolphe Guenoden. They talk about creating a 3D/2D hybrid film, and how the script and story came to be as they worked. One of the cool extras is the “’Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters” short, which is done mostly with 2D animation. Here we learn how Storming Ox, Master Croc, and Thundering Rhino came to be kung fu masters, which is pretty neat.
“Kickin’ It with the Cast” goes behind the scenes with the cast, and all the fun they had recording in the studio. “Panda Stories” talks about how pandas are endangered in real life and how people around the world are fighting to keep them alive. “Kung Fu Shuffle” has two classic shell games kids can play, one with baby Po hiding under a crate and the other with a bunny under a barrel.
Rounding out the extras is “Ni Hao”, which is a nice educational piece in which it teaches some beginner steps in writing and speaking Mandarin. And there’s also three deleted scenes which are animatic storyboards of parts that didn’t make the cut into the movie. Another awesome feature that I’m glad they included is an episode from the new Nickelodeon TV series “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness”. The episode “Has Been Hero” has yet to be aired on TV, and has Po befriending one of his favorite wrestler heroes, but quickly learns that his hero isn’t who he thinks he is.
I really enjoyed Kung Fu Panda 2, and it’s easily my favorite animated movie of the year. It has everything you could want in a family film, from exciting action and adventure, hilarious humor, to a truly touching story that may bring on tears. The animation is simply astounding, from the incredible design on new characters like Gary Oldman’s evil peacock, Lord Shen, to the fantastic mix of traditional and CG effects that dazzle the imagination. The rest of the cast is as great as ever, and the special features like full commentary and bonus games loaded on this release make this a must-have Blu-ray for animation fans. If there’s one movie you have to pick up that the whole family will enjoy, this is definitely it, as this is one kung fu fight you’ll be glad to be a part of.
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