Kung Fu Panda 2

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Let me preface by saying I was rather unimpressed with the first Kung Fu Panda. As entertaining and well-choreographed as it was, it didn't pass my bar for mediocre DreamWorks animated movies. It was amusing and had some heart, but all-in-all was pretty expected. Now when I got a chance to see a preview of Kung Fu Panda 2, I was rather indifferent to seeing DreamWorks trying to pump out a mediocre sequel and a new franchise. But WOW... was I wrong! I take back everything I said earlier because, man oh man, I have to admit that Kung Fu Panda 2 was one of the best animated films I have ever seen.

In in this installment, we find Po and the Furious Five defending the Valley of Peace from evil when a new threat rises. Lord Shen, an albino peacock banished by his parents many years ago, has returned with a technology capable of ending kung fu and conquering China. As the Furious Five embark to destroy the weapon, Po begins to realize that Shen may be linked to his lost childhood past as a panda bear. I won't say any more in fear of spoiling the story, but be prepared for a powerful emotional experience.

I found a big improvement was that they toned down all the things that made the first movie irritating: over-the-top Jack Black antics, overused slow-mo effects, and dialogue silliness. That's not to say Kung Fu Panda 2 doesn't have humor; actually, it has exactly the right amount at the right time. I found myself rolling my eyes a lot at the jokes in the first movie, but the sequel had me (and the whole theater, for that matter) genuinely laughing! The characters have fully matured and been fleshed out to the point where even Jack Black fits comfortably as Po, though regrettably the Furious Five barely get any screen time. Of course, shining in the spotlight was Gary Oldman as the sinister Lord Shen, whose fantastically evil voice acting tops even Ian McShane's as Tai Lung and is the ONLY way that a peacock could possibly be made scary! The 3D was also showcased quite well, enhancing most of the visuals throughout the movie without being a headache.
Maybe you call it blasphemy, but the comparison must be made. Kung Fu Panda 2 was put together with such a degree of excellence that it rivals many Pixar movies (and in my opinion has a good chance of outshining Cars 2 this year). With some fantastic animation, a surprising and touching story, and convincing voice talent, Kung Fu Panda 2 will easily go down as one of my all-time animated favorites.
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