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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kung Fu Panda 2 is the sequel to 2008's hit animated film about an unlikely martial arts hero returns to China. Po (again voiced by Jack Black) and the rest of his kung fu clan must defeat a new villain who's armed with gunpowder and cannons. The movie's surprisingly poignant, sometimes serious story addresses the conflict between tradition and modernization, as well as Po's discovery of a long-hidden tragedy and his journey to accept an unusual upbringing. Not surprisingly, there's plenty of action -- including explosions, swordfights, and lots of kung fu fisticuffs. Scenes involving parent-child separation could also be upsetting for kids. Unlike the first film, this one is offered in 3-D, which can make some of the sequences feel more intense.
What's the story?
In KUNG FU PANDA 2, Po (voiced by Jack Black), the out-of-shape panda who was improbably tapped to become the Dragon Warrior in the original Kung Fu Panda, is now a well-trained martial arts hero who must defeat a powerful villain armed with an unstoppable secret weapon. Backed up by the Furious Five and his teacher, Master Shifu, Po realizes that to defeat the evil Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), he must uncover a long-hidden secret about his own childhood and learn to attain inner peace. Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, and Dustin Hoffman all reprise their roles as Po's comrades in this worthy sequel.
Is it any good?
There are so many ways tha this sequel could have gone wrong, but instead it's one of the best sequels to grace the screen in a while, fully able to stand on its own. It could have traded on the same old jokes. It could have had Po still proving himself. It could have had an identical theme song. Kung Fu Panda 2 does none of that.
First, there's the timing. The movie doesn't start exactly where the first installment left off but rather with Po and the Furious 5 already a well-trained unit. And then there's the plot. By taking the storyline in a more serious, though still entertaining, direction -- Po yearns to discover and understand where he came from, and the movie makes a strong point that your past need not define you -- it has more heft and heart, a potent and sometimes profound combination. And yet, the film is still whimsical and funny, with thrilling 3-D special effects to boot. (The trees and the landscapes are nearly palpable.) Now this is winning.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about family and how it's portrayed in Kung Fu Panda 2. What do you think about Po's relationship with his dad? Do you think a blood link is the most important factor in defining family?
What does Po learn in this movie? How does that compare to what he learned in the first one?
Do you think the film paints an unrealistic picture of ancient traditions? Is it possible to stand in the way of progress?
- In theaters: May 26, 2011
- On DVD or streaming: December 13, 2011
- Cast: Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Jack Black, Seth Rogen
- Director: Jennifer Yuh Nelson
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Misfits and Underdogs, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: sequences of martial arts action and mild violence
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