Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Enter the panda, again

I distinctly remember having a precious LOL moment watching the first Kung Fu Panda movie, the bit where Po, the rotund eponymous protagonist, has this exchange with his dad Mr. Ping, a scrawny goose:

Po: "I don't know, Dad. Honestly, sometimes I can't believe I'm actually your son."
Mr. Ping: "Po, I think it's time I told you something I should've told you a long time ago..."
Po: "Okay..."
Mr. Ping: "The secret ingredient of my Secret Ingredient Soup."

It was that kind of smart, subtle humor that made Kung Fu Panda such a fun and funny film. I was expecting the same from its sequel, but Kung Fu Panda 2 turned out to be more... philosophical than funny. Yes, it elicited its fair share of giggles from the audience, and I had another genuine LOL moment toward the end (the second half of the movie turned out to be more enjoyable). But with its theme of searching for identity and inner peace, KFP2 had me reflecting, and even sniffling, instead of snickering. It's not necessarily a bad thing-- in fact, I'm a sucker for mo
vies that make me cry. I guess I was just expecting a movie that promised twice the awesomeness of the previous one to deliver the "awesome", not the "awws".

Don't get me wrong though, there is much to love about KFP2. For one thing, the
animation is visually stunning-- cartoon China comes to life in bright colors, dramatic landscapes, and beautiful details. For another, the characters are cute and charismatic-- I especially loved Master Shifu (redundant name notwithstanding) and Mr. Ping, who get some of the best lines of the script. I even appreciated the mad villain Lord Shen, a white peacock hellbent on conquering China (and destroying kungfu) using gunpowder and cannons. Shen's personality is threshed out quite well for a cartoon bad guy, and his connection to Po's wanting to find out who his birth parents were fits in quite nicely within the whole plot.

KFP2 boasts what is perhaps the most star-studded cast of voice talents ever assembled: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, et al. Problem is, there are so many stars that their talents are not maximized, or in the case of some, they're barely utilized. Personally I would have liked to hear more of Jean-Claude Van Damme (Master Croc) if only because there was so much potential for self-deprecating meta-references right there.

As far as animated film franchises go, Kung Fu Panda seems to have gotten the right formula for both commercial and critical success, much like Dreamworks' other notable cartoon hit Shrek. So perhaps unsurprisingly, KFP2 ends with an assurance of a third movie, and I for one think that's awesome.


At Wednesday, June 01, 2011, Anonymous Home Inspector Expert said...

I really, really like the first film. Like, it's probably my favorite animation film in the past decade or so. Not saying it's the BEST one (that belongs to Wall-E or The Illusionist), but like you said, it really does capture kung-fu films well.
I am disappointed that Hoffman's character is designated to glorified cameo status, as he really gave the first film a heaping helping of pathos. But, a serving of prime Old man will probably lesson the blow.


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