The roly-poly “Kung Fu Panda” returns for more adventures in a new sequel—but, like that kung pao chicken at the back of your fridge, none of it’s quite as crisp the second time around.
Once again, the cartoon features the voice of Jack Black as our obese, ursine hero (and a star-studded vocal support team, from Jackie Chan and Dustin Hoffman to Seth Rogen and Angelina Jolie). Also some lovely, Asian-inspired art. Even in 3-D though, things feel a little flat.
The story does feature a great new villain in an imperialist peacock, as voiced terrifically by the hissable Gary Oldman. Also a personal crisis as Po, the giant panda, suddenly realizes that the goose who raised him probably wasn’t his biological father. Duh.
The two stories come together as Po realizes he’s the survivor of a famous massacre, dating back to when—disturbed by prophecies of a black-and-white hero who would one day destroy him—the regal peacock ordered all panda babies slain.
The movie bumps amiably along while Po predictably meets the challenge, learns something about himself and ends the film with a big group hug. There’s a lot going on here. In fact, at times the movie feels as overstuffed as one of Po’s fave pork buns.
True, Black adds a lot to the movie’s comic texture, and Oldman steals the show as the supercilious villain. But the supporting cast is simply too big, while getting too little to do. Really, who needs Lucy Liu here? Or Jean-Claude Van Damme? Any voice artist could have done half-a-dozen of these characters, and better, too.
The verdict? The way to true inner peace comes from knowing that more doesn’t necessarily equal better.
Grade ★ ★ ★ out of 5 stars
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