Kung Fu Panda: The Kaboom Of Doom(2011)
- RatedG /GenreAction, Adventure, Animation
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The first Kung Fu Panda movie, released in 2008, marked a turning point for Dreamworks Animation Studio. Its previous films were commercial hits, but they often relied on pop culture references and animation always came in second behind the celebrity voiceover work, with jokes that dated the film.
But the first Panda movie changed that; humour was still there, but the story was central and the pop culture references went out the window. Moreover, the animation work was beautiful, and had both art and heart in it.
Now comes the sequel to the smash hit, and the high standards established in the first have been retained. Directing chores are now handled by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, and she’s managed to combine the funny and the fun, with astounding visuals based on Asian art, while keeping the film’s chop-socky fun flavour.
The story this time involves an evil peacock Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman) who has invented a weapon that can “destroy kung fu”. Po (Jack Black), along with the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan and David Cross), are sent to take down this evil new threat. Over the course of the journey, Po finds that this new enemy may hold the key to his past.
Nelson has paid careful attention to the martial art movies that inspired the character, and in KFP2 the fighting scenes are first-rate. They extend the already wild array of martial art moves into the cartoon universe, and the results are action sequences that are original and a joy to watch. Some of them do flow a bit too fast, which makes it hard to follow the action. With so many characters, some of the ensemble gets very little screen time.
Nelson does do a great job with the film’s jokes, and the comic timing hits the right spot. One of the film’s best scenes is between Po and his adoptive father (James Hong), and Nelson nails it with sensitivity and humour.
The animation work is once again gorgeous. The scene in Sung’s throne room is rich with detail, and it’s hard not to wish that the scenes would slow down to just admire and soak in the superb background design. There’s also smooth integration between the CG and 2D scenes that are used for flashbacks throughout the film. The 2D work, which is modelled after shadow puppetry, is often startlingly beautiful. While I won’t say that the 3D effects are essential, they are very well-done here, giving depth to the characters and the rich background details.
With Pixar focusing on Cars 2 this year, the sequel to its least critically successful film, KFP2 might yet mark another milestone for Dreamworks, even if the year is still early. It could well break that other studio’s near-stranglehold on the Best Animated Feature Oscar, and even if it doesn’t, there’s no denying that this sequel packs quite a few punches, and like a martial arts master, hits all the right pressure points.