Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

Po returns, clutching a musical rabbit, in  Kung Fu Panda 2 .
Po returns, clutching a musical rabbit, in Kung Fu Panda 2 .

*** (PG)

Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson.

Cast: (voices) Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, David Cross, Lucy Liu.

THERE'S an old Chinese proverb (that I just made up) that goes: what is the point in making something pretty to look at if no one can see it?

That's one of the issues facing the 3D version of Kung Fu Panda 2 (and many other 3D movies). Following on from the visual splendour and amazing action of its predecessor, this sequel attempts to up the ante while doing it in 3D.

Unfortunately, the addition of another dimension means the in-your-face fight scenes are so in-your-face you can't see anything clearly. Add to this some whirlwind editing and up-close camera moves that would make Michael Bay wet his pants, and you've got some messy sequences that undermine the beautiful moving pictures on the screen. In the type of film where every pixel is sweated over, why make things so hard to see?

After all, watching Po the Panda (Black) do his thing on the way to becoming the Dragon Warrior was what made Kung Fu Panda such a modern classic of family entertainment.

This time around, Po must face evil peacock Shen (Oldman), who has been mastering the use of gunpowder and cannons after being exiled for evil-ness. Shen also holds the secret to Po's past, meaning there's more at stake for Po as he and the Furious Five try to stop the bird-brained baddie and his pack of wolves from taking over China and destroying kung fu.

Po's journey from unco-ordinated tubster to awesome martial artist was a typical "underdog overcomes" tale, but an enjoyable one. Here, the film-makers are left with an unwieldly dilemma - how do we balance Po's new-found awesomeness with the clumsy idiocy that made him such an endearing character in the first place?

The result is a jumbled journey for the uneven Po. He's not as entertaining this time around, but you'll still love the big lug by the end as he achieves a new level of awesomeness in the film's excellent finale.

The Furious Five - Tiger, Monkey, Crane, Mantis and Viper - are again shortchanged as characters, merely adding comic relief and butt-kicking.

But for all its frustations, Kung Fu Panda 2 is still an enjoyable film. The battle between kung fu and the new technology of gunpowder is an interesting angle, Oldman's Shen makes for a great villian, and Black is still fun as Po.

Once again, the film-makers use traditional animation nicely amid the CG spectacle, and not all the action sequences are marred by 3D-inspired flinch tactics or unsightly editing.

But Kung Fu Panda 2 confirms that old Hollywood truism - the sequel might be enjoyable, but it's never as good as the original.