Kung Fu Panda 2 [Blu-Ray]
Director : Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Screenplay : Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2011
Stars : Jack Black (Po), Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Dustin Hoffman (Shifu), Gary Oldman (Shen), Jackie Chan (Monkey), Seth Rogen (Mantis), Lucy Liu (Viper), David Cross (Crane), James Hong (Mr. Ping), Michelle Yeoh (Soothsayer), Danny McBride (Wolf Boss), Dennis Haysbert (Master Ox), Jean-Claude Van Damme (Master Croc), Victor Garber (Master Rhino)
In the inevitable, but mostly enjoyable sequel Kung Fu Panda 2, Jack Black reprises his role as Po, a roly-roly panda-turned-Dragon Warrior, and there is probably no actor working today who is better at conveying boundless enthusiasm and awe. His voice has the same crackling cadence of a 10-year-old who just shot off his first firecracker, and the way he says things like “That was awesome!,” drawing the words out until the last syllables are literally exploding from his throat, makes everything about the movie a little more fun; it’s hard not to enjoy something when the main character is so constantly enamored with it. Even though Po is now officially part of the mythical “Furious Five” quintet of kung-fu animal warriors, which includes Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), and Crane (David Cross), he is still like a drooling fanboy who can’t quite believe that he’s managed to sneak backstage at his favorite band’s concert.
Of course, the fact that he is now a certified kung-fu warrior, there is the risk of losing some of the humor from the first movie, where the central joke was that the most unlikely of animals was prophesized to be the only warrior capable of saving ancient China from a savage nemesis. Returning screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger essentially solve this problem by integrating Po and his unique abilities into the Furious Five without ever quite making him an insider. Still insatiably hungry, easily distracted, and a bit of a klutz, Po is the perpetual odd man out, especially after his master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) introduces him to the concept of “inner peace,” whose decades-long mastery is a bit more than Po can handle.
As the first film focused on the message of being true to one’s self, Kung Fu Panda 2 is about finding that inner peace, an elusive concept that becomes particularly critical for Po when he discovers that his father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), is not, in fact, his real father. Despite the inherent humor of this “revelation” (since Mr. Ping is a goose and Po is a panda bear 10 times his size), the film wrings a surprising amount of pathos out of this cross-species parental scenario. Mr. Ping’s slightly comical, but genuine sadness in confessing to Po his adopted status and subsequent fear of losing his son’s love as Po goes off to find the truth behind his desertion is the kind of emotionally moving stuff that doesn’t need 3-D to be effective.
Visual three-dimensionality does come into serious play in the film’s various action sequences, which pit Po and the Furious Five against Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a vicious peacock who is hellbent on vengeance and reclaiming the throne that he feels is rightfully his, which involves nothing less than the all-out destruction of kung fu. Give credit to both Oldman for lacing every line of dialogue with silky sadism that literally drips from each word and the conceptual artists for finding ways to make a peacock look so cruel. He is a genuinely worthy adversary, plus he has a history with Po that is unfortunately telegraphed a little too obviously in the film’s opening sequence (if you skipped the first five minutes, the movie would actually play much better). The visuals are as beautiful as ever, as the film’s intricately textured fantasy version of ancient China feels even richer and more expansive than in the first film, and the characters again maintain a strong balance between photorealistic detail and animal caricature. Granted, there isn’t too much depth beneath the film’s fortune cookie wisdom, but it’s still a fun time that Po himself would probably embrace with his nerd-living-the-dream enthusiasm.
|Kung Fu Panda 2 Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish|
|Distributor||DreamWorks Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||December 13, 2011|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The image and sound on Kung Fu Panda 2 are both superb. The 1080p high-definition image is dazzling in terms of color, contrast, and detail. The image has great depth and clarity, and you can feel the intensity of the detail in the various textures throughout the film, whether it be metal or rock or fabric or fur. Given that the film was released in 3-D theatrically, I was surprised that DreamWorks didn’t release a 3-D Blu-Ray, but no matter: The image is so good that it doesn’t need stereoscopic trickery to create the illusion of depth. The lossless Dolby Digital TrueHD 7.1-channel soundtrack is fully immersive with great use of the surround channels, clear dialogue, and a thunderous low end. Po would most likely described it as “awesome!”|
|The Blu-Ray boasts a couple of exclusives that aren’t available on the individual DVD, including “Animation Inspiration,” a set of eight brief featurettes about the locations around China that inspired the artists in creating their fictional version; “The Animators’ Corner,” a highly recommended viewing mode that allows you to watch interviews with cast and crew, look at storyboards, and listen to commentary while watching the film; and a trivia pop-up track. Both discs include an audio commentary by director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, producer Melissa Cobb, production designer Raymond Zibach and supervising animator, kung fu choreographer and story artist Rodolphe Guenoden. The commentary is packed with information and rarely flags or loses pace with the film, and the four collaborators do a nice job discussing the various aspects of the production without talking over each other. Other supplements included the debut episode of Nickelodeon’s new half-hour television series Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness; “Kickin’ It with the Cast,” which features interviews with veteran cast members, as well as new inclusions Gary Oldman, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Victor Garber, and Michelle Yeoh; and three deleted scenes (none of which made it past the storyboard stage) with introductions by Nelson. Kids will enjoy the new game Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters, “Panda Stories,” a featurette that looks at the animals that inspired Kung Fu Panda and includes footage of Jack Black’s visit to the Atlanta Zoo to meet Po’s real-life namesake; Kung Fu Shuffle, which updates the classic shell game with radishes and Master Shifu; and “Ni Hao: Learn Chinese!,” which allows you to choose from more than 50 Kung Fu Panda-inspired words and learn how to say and draw the symbol in Chinese. Pop the DVD into a computer and you also get access to the Legend of the Wu Sisters game and printable coloring pages, connect the dots, 3D fortune tellers, stand-up 3D characters, pencil toppers, and mazes.|
Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick
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