Kung Fu Panda 2

After becoming the famed Dragon Warrior in his last film, tubby panda warrior Po (Jack Black: Gulliver’s Travels) is living large. He trains, signs autographs and eats, while enjoying a partnership with the legendary Furious Five — Tigress (Angelina Jolie: Salt); Viper (Lucy Liu: East Fifth Bliss); Praying Mantis (Seth Rogen: Paul); Crane (David Cross: Running Wilde); and Monkey (Jackie Chan: The Karate Kid). Their days are spent training and protecting the Valley of Peace.
    Nice work if you can get it.
    When a pack of wolves raid a musicians’ village, looting for metal instruments and objects, Po and his friends are called into action. The wolves’ uniforms cause Po to begin a series of traumatic flashbacks to his past. It turns out Po was adopted; only he seems surprised that the goose that raised him isn’t his real dad. Not only that, but his parents were the victims of a genocidal peacock, Shen (Gary Oldman: Red Riding Hood), who was obsessed with a prophecy that a panda would defeat him.
    Good thing he missed one.
    To make Po’s task even more difficult, Shen has invented a weapon that negates Kung Fu. In the face of these overwhelming odds, Po must face the tragedy of his past and triumph over mechanized and feathered foes.
    Can he do it? It’s a kids’ movie, so probably.
    This sequel to a light and fluffy Kung Fu kids movie takes a noticeably darker turn. From the massacre of pandas to the use of cannons to blow characters away, Kung Fu Panda 2 is not a lighthearted romp through the animal kingdom. Casting Oldman was brilliant for this move to the serious, since his bloodthirsty vocal performance makes a skinny white peacock terrifying.
    In spite of its serious tone, the movie has enough humor to keep the little ones and their escorts laughing. Po is still a tubby jokester, out of breath and stuffing dumplings in his mouth one moment and performing death-defying leaps the next. He might start a new diet craze. As in most origin stories, our hero is bogged down in angst when he learns about his past. Petulant Po is kind of a drag, but Black keeps those moments brief and the rest of his performance light.
    The only problem with Kung Fu Panda 2 is the numerous plot holes. They’re not big enough to ruin the fun for the little ones. But adults will be left wondering why, if there was a panda massacre years ago, no one is surprised to see Po — who is evidently the last of his kind. Why did no one notice that the emperor’s son was stockpiling munitions for years? Also, why bother casting Jackie Chan, a legend in the martial arts film industry, if you’re only going to give him two lines?
    Still, as long as you’re willing to put your trust in Po, it’s easy enough to step over the plot holes and enjoy the ride. Kung Fu Panda 2 may not be able to defeat Pixar for animation supremacy, but it’s a nice way to keep cool on a summer afternoon. Just don’t let your kids attempt Po’s moves as the credits role. It caused a minor fracas at my theater.

Good Animation • PG • 90 mins.