When I decided to review "Kung Fu Panda 2," I was a little apprehensive. Being in a cinema surrounded by sugar-hyped kids and minivan moms isn't exactly my cup of tea. But I will begin by saying that you have to leave your preconceived stereotypes at home for this film.
For those of you who are familiar with the first installment, this movie presumably picks up where the last one left off. Our humble, bumbling, bamboo-devouring panda (voiced by Jack Black) is happily and not hungrily defending the Valley of Peace with his friends, the Furious Five. The warriors don't stay undercover for long, however, as the tranquil landscape is soon threatened by a new, sinister villain, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman). This evil peacock has harnessed the power of an actual, ancient Chinese-invented technology: fireworks.
Thus our anthropomorphic superheroes embark on a perilous journey to defeat the antagonist. Along the way we encounter a host of new characters, namely a soothsaying goat, a gang of ruthless wolves, Master Storming Ox, Master Croc and others.
In the process of saving the day, Po, the panda protagonist, also undergoes a transformation as he travels on a quest to discover who he truly is. We realize that the goose is his adoptive father (which if you passed your biology class, you understood from day one). Po gradually gains self-confidence and comes to terms with his physical appearance. He learns that we each have a tremendous force deep within us that can only be unleashed if we live up to our true potential.
There are several recurring themes that are prominent throughout the film. Po symbolizes living life in perfect harmony through the balance of yin and yang, which are colored black and white. We are always reminded of the kung fu ideal of inner peace, which Po utilizes to the greatest extent. I'm not going to spoil the surprise for you though!
When many teenagers think of going to see a computer-animated cartoon, they think: "Oh no ... just another excuse for family togetherness." However, I would recommend this movie for a date activity or just hanging out with friends. Believe it or not, "Kung Fu Panda 2" has plenty of suspense and thrills much in the same vein as "Toy Story 3." I was practically on the edge of my seat for the duration of it. The artwork was flawless and beautiful; I felt like a tourist in a modern Chinese village.
"Kung Fu Panda 2" was also very descriptive as far as character development goes. Po's true ancestry and identity are revealed, and he finally becomes the hero that he deserved applause for. In regard to this, the film was reminiscent of trilogies such as "Lord of the Rings" and "Star Wars." Comic relief is provided constantly throughout the movie, and I found myself rolling on the floor with laughter quite frequently. Although Po has center stage, other characters such as the monkey are hilarious.
This movie doesn't have a target viewership. Audiences of all ages are sure to love it. It far exceeded my expectations for a sequel, and I thought it was a little better than the original. Whether you have nothing to do or are overwhelmed with the advent of summer vacation, go see "Kung Fu Panda 2" and I guarantee that you will enjoy it!
Dylan Hansen will be a senior in the fall at Syracuse High School. He likes playing the clarinet and piano, history, and being with friends. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.