Kung Fu Panda 2
Direction: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Voices: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie
There are only a handful of sequels — The Godfather-Part II, for example — that it can be said improves upon the original.
Thankfully, the follow-up to the 2008 animated hit is one of them.
Po, the podgy panda (superbly reprised by Black) flexes his muscles again to save China from a new villain, an albino peacock (dubbed in appropriately terrifying tones by Gary Oldman) intent on conquering the country.
First-time feature film director Nelson relies on the simple story, for which Guillermo Del Toro is co-credited as consultant, to keep viewers engrossed. The whiplash wit and whirlwind action sequences are matched by a visual panache that is breathtaking.
Though they are not given as much screen time as in the first film, Po’s warrior-comrades (returning vocal talent Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu and Seth Rogen) are still infectiously endearing.
Among the roster of newbie characters count a reformed crocodile criminal (voiced, in a casting coup of sorts, by Jean-Claude Van Damme) and a goat-soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh).
The swooping camera movements, background details and sound design are rendered with a meticulous attention to detail. The fundamental message — it’s essential to find inner peace in order to achieve one’s goal — is forcefully conveyed.
The encounters between Po and his adoptive father-goose (James Hong, wonderfully expressive) are as heart-warming as they are hilarious.
Few recent films, animated or live-action, have displayed the ceaselessly comic creativity of Kung Fu Panda 2. Here, then, is one of those rare sequels that will leave you wanting more, more and even more.