The strangest things happen when you’re sleeping in a recliner for a summer because pinched nerve in the neck won’t allow the comfort of a regular bed.
Pain is the norm, not the exception and sleep comes in three-hour increments, if you’re lucky. Thus you spend a lot of time watching movies in the wee hours of the morning. For me that meant at least 30 viewings of the DreamWorks animated feature Kung Fu Panda – a fact that many people might call a form of torture. Not here. Though beautifully animated, I fell in love with the movie about a portly panda named Po (Jack Black) who is selected to be the Dragon Warrior, the one destined to save China from evil. Anyone who has seen my physique would know why. It was a movie about honor, destiny and self-esteem and Black did some of his best work. Kung Fu Panda 2 is even better.
It’s an animated movie that possesses heart, soul, a heaping dose of humor and enough action to mesmerize children and keep adults engaged. And, once again, it’s a movie that Black throws himself into, losing himself in the part.
In this adventure, Po and the rest of the Furious Five – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Liu) – are called upon to save China once again. This time from a peacock with more pride than an arrogant pro athlete. Lord Shen (Gary Oldman) has long been banished from the kingdom that his parents rule benevolently, primarily because he had other desires.
A master of fire and pyrotechnics, he’s invented the ultimate weapon, a canon with tremendous power that he wants to use to take over all of China.
But KFP2 is as much about Po’s continuing personal journey as it is about combating evil. Filming from a script from Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (Monsters vs. Aliens), first-time feature film director Jennifer Yuh displays a knack for telling a heartfelt tale and for the art of storytelling in general. She makes the film breezy fun all while deftly dealing with more hefty material, never losing sight of the bigger picture – which is to entertain. Her skills and the script further develop the characters – not an easy task to accomplish in animated movies.
But she has plenty of help from her cast. Black is obviously having the time of his life all while delivering a performance and not just spouting lines. There are more than a few hints of improvisation. And while we barely got to know the other members of his brood in the first film, that changes in this outing as the Furious Five develop a bond as fighters for justice and friends.
The movie will be shown in both 2D and 3D. It’s worth it to see it in the latter format. It’s one of the better uses of the format in months. Kung Fu Panda 2 is irresistable family entertainment.
Movie: Kung Fu Panda 2
Director: Jennifer Yuh
Cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Lucy Liu
Studio: Paramount Studios
Rated: PG for sequences of martial arts and action violence.
Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes
Check for theaters and showtimes at Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com