Original review featured on The Doha Film Institute website.

Director: Jennifer Yuh

Stars: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie and Jackie Chan
Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure

“Kung Fu Panda 2” is now in Doha, and it is already proving to be a hit – I was amazed at the number of kids that came to the late night showing to watch their favourite panda, Po, set off on a whole new quest. The film certainly motivates the younger audience, so just make sure you protect your waist when leaving the screening and watch out for flying kicks!

In this second feisty kung fu instalment, our friend Po (voiced by Jack Black) joins forces with a group of new kung fu masters to take on an old enemy, Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman), the heir of the peacock clan that ruled Gongmen City in China. Not happy with just ruling the city, our peacock antagonist wants to rule all of China, but is worried by a prophecy that says he’s going to be defeated by “a warrior of black and white”. He assumes the prophecy talks about pandas, and sets forth to exterminate them all. His parents are understandably furious, and promptly exile him for his horrific acts. Unstoppable, he’s been developing deadly weapons on the sly for years, and with his loyal wolf bandits in tow is now ready to exert his revenge.

As for our protagonist Po, he is as we left him in the original film: enjoying being the Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace, trying to master the next level of Inner Peace and, of course, eating! He is soon confronted with a new mission that opens up previous, unresolved questions about his parents, such as finding out more about where he came from. We follow his story as he sets out to find answers with his hardy group of loyal friends.

The animation – and particularly the fantastic kung fu – is thrilling, and our main characters, voiced by Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan and Gary Oldman, only add humour and depth to an already impressive film. It balances a blend of the seriousness of Master Shifu’s kung fu theories against Po’s funny one-liners, and the wisdom and charm of Tigress with the genius of Jackie Chan voicing the monkey.

A brilliant beginning, with the suggestion of gloomy secrets unrevealed in the first film, and splendid costumes and landscapes signify the past of the villainous Lord Shen, before his exile. Po’s flashbacks are vivid, emphasised with hand-drawn imagery and ‘stick puppet’ narration. Several elements have been used for different purposes around a central timeline, allowing you to follow all the characters stories easily.

It is rare for a sequel to be better, but “Kung Fu Panda 2” succeeded – for me, the original “Kung Fu Panda” lacked a good storyline, which this film more than made up for. When we talk kung fu, we think of stealthy, graceful movements aligned with deeper messages about inner feelings and struggles, which this film portrays skilfully. It is one of the main themes within the film, and it is used to reveal weaknesses that hold Po back from moving on.

Children will enjoy the beautiful animation, jokes and kung fu moves (and here’s my second warning about the kicks post screening!). Think of it this way: Po wants to become a kung fu master as much as he wants to eat cakes – an interesting combination I personally really like! You will also love the ending, I’m sure, part of which reveals we will hopefully be seeing a “Kung Fu Panda 3” soon…. but until then, make sure you get your Po intake with “Kung Fu Panda 2”, now playing in Doha!

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