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Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Paramount Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/13/2011

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/13/2011

As you know, we've seen a lot of superhero movies lately. ("A lot" really doesn't cut it, does it?) Many of these films are origin stories. Therefore, the majority of the movie is taken up with explaining how the hero became a hero, and there's not much room for action. If and when a sequel is made, that movie can take advantage of the fact that the origin story has been told and get straight to the exciting stuff. Kung Fu Panda 2 takes this idea and runs with it. But, is too much action a good thing?

Kung Fu Panda 2 sees awkward panda bear Po (voiced by Jack Black) attempting to settle into his new role as the "Dragon Warrior", as he continues to train with Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), and the "Furious Five" -- Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie), Mantis (voiced by Seth Rogen), Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu), Crane (voiced by David Cross), and Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan). Po and the Five spring into action when they hear that marauders have invaded a local village. Upon arrival, they find wolves taking every metal object in sight. They investigate this further and learn that a peacock named Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman) has created a deadly new weapon and that he needs the metal to buy more of them. The group confronts Shen, but this triggers strong memories from Po's past -- memories which could explain where he came from and why his father (voiced by James Hong) is a goose. Will Po be able to overcome these feelings and fulfill his destiny in stopping Shen?

Well, you certainly can't complain about Kung Fu Panda 2 being boring or beating around the bush. After some brief re-introductions to the characters and an explanation that Po will be searching for inner peace, the movie is off and running. The story moves right into the battle in the village and then into Po and the Five pursuing and fighting Shen. We also learn about Shen's past, and we are introduced to some new characters, such as Master Croc (voiced by Jean-Claude Van Damme), Master Ox (voiced by Dennis Haysbert) and the Soothsayer (voiced by Michelle Yeoh). The movie also examines Po's mysterious past, using traditional animation (as opposed to CG) which has an interesting look.

While this sounds exciting, there are some drawbacks to the story. While watching Kung Fu Panda 2, I felt as if instead of getting a beginning, a middle, and an end, that I was getting a lot of middle. We get scene after scene of Po and his friends battling their enemies and escaping traps, but the story doesn't advance much. It wouldn't be fair to say that this feels redundant, but it certainly seems to stagnate. A lot of middle segues into a finale which is dragged out a little too long. Kung Fu Panda 2 can't be accuse of having sluggish pacing, but it does over inflate what little story it has.

These issues aside, if you enjoyed Kung Fu Panda, then you'll find something to enjoy about the sequel, despite the fact that I didn't think the animation was as detailed this time. Jack Black continues to bring a manic energy to Po and I like the fact that he doesn't talk like anyone else in the film. Po has some very funny lines and there's a nice joke during the finale when Po makes his triumphant speech. The story wisely has the Five embrace Po (especially Tigress), as opposed to resenting him, and there is one plot twist which I did not see coming. Kung Fu Panda 2 is flawed, but you can't blame it for wanting to roll out as much action as possible, and the relentlessness does give way to fun.

Kung Fu Panda 2 introduce some more animals to Po's world besides pigs and rabbits on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. This must be a digital-to-digital transfer, as it looks great. The colors look fantastic, most notably the reds. Shen has a great contrasting red and white color scheme and he looks especially good. The crispness of the image brings out the finer details in the animation and the picture has a nice depth to it. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very well done. Po is often causing trouble off-screen and we can hear these events in the left and right channels. The surround sound effects really come to life in the action scenes, and these sounds are nicely detailed. The use of Shen's weapons allows the subwoofer to get involved.

The Kung Fu Panda 2 Blu-ray Disc contains many extras. We begin with the bonus short "Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Masters" (23 minutes) opens with the CG animation seen in the film and then switches to a stylized hand-drawn animation. The story gives us the background on the Ox, Croc, and Rhino seen in the film. Kung Fu Panda 2 can be viewed with commentary from Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Production Designer Melissa Cobb, and Supervising Animator/Kung Fu Choreographer/Story Artist Rodolphe Guenoden. In addition, it can be watched with "Animator's Corner", a picture-in-picture feature which contains interviews with the animators, as well as developmental art. The movie can also be viewed with a "Trivia Track". "Animation Inspiration" (11 minutes) is an interactive feature which shows the real-life locations which inspired the animators. "Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness" (24 minutes) offers a full-length episode of the Nickelodeon show based on the movie. "Kickin' It With the Cast" (13 minutes) offers interviews with the actors and we get to see them in the recording studio. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about 4 minutes. All three are "test" animation, which is like storyboards with minimal animation. "Panda Stories" (8 minutes) is a mini-documentary about preserving the endangered panda. "Ni Hao" is an interactive lesson in speaking and writing Mandarin. There are also two set-top games.

Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long