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Within a brief prologue, a proud peacock prince
Turns to the dark side and kills pandas since
A goat has foretold one will bring down this Shen.
Though banished, Shen plots to return once again.
The fat panda Po and the Furious Five
Are doing quite well till a wolf pack arrives.
They’re gathering metal and quickly escape
While Po is distracted by some random shape.
The band of kung fu-ers soon learn a large town
Was captured with weapons that brought masters down.
They find there that Shen and his wolves have moved in;
A firework cannon has helped them to win.
They’re captured at once when the wolves all step in
But break free, destroying the peacock’s weapon.
Yet Shen has built many and shows off their power
By toppling down his own ancestral tower.
Our heroes get out by all working together,
But Po is disturbed by the shapes on Shen’s feather.
Small flashbacks suggest that when Shen turned bad
Was the last time that Po saw his real mom or dad.
His friends want him safe so they leave behind Po,
Who needs to know what happened so long ago.
When Po confronts Shen, disobeying his team,
He’s shot by Shen’s cannon and falls in a stream.
Surviving, he’s helped by the goat to recall
That night when so many poor pandas did fall.
His mother hid him but was murdered by Shen;
His goose “father” found and adopted him then.
Thus coming to terms with his turbulent past,
Po goes to stop Shen, whose strength’s growing fast.
Po battles Shen’s ships and releases the Five,
And Shen doesn’t care if his own troops survive.
He launches the cannon, and none can deflect it,
But Po’s inner peace helps him redirect it.
He offers this peace to his foe, standing tall,
But Shen’s thirst for vengeance begets his downfall.
When Po and his friends return home once they’ve won,
He tells his goose dad he’ll always be his son.
But far, far away from both Po and the Five,
The panda’s real father can sense he’s alive.

Not all of DreamWorks’s films have deserved sequels. Shark Tale, Bee Movie, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Megamind certainly did not, and I personally don’t think Madagascar warranted a trilogy, plus an upcoming movie centered on the Penguins. Yet Kung Fu Panda held promise and untapped questions that could be further explored in future films, the most obvious being “Why is Po’s father a goose?”

The tragic answer to that question, which Kung Fu Panda 2 provides, gives the film much more heart than its predecessor. While the first movie had some minor awww-worthy character development surrounding Shifu’s relationship with Tai Lung and Tigress, the pathos was relegated to pretty much one scene, with the rest of the film busy with humor, action, training, worrying, lesson learning, and the like. In Kung Fu Panda 2, the emotions take center stage as an integral part of the plot and the history of both Po and Shen. I like how the Furious Five have clearly warmed up to the chubby panda, even if they remain underdeveloped as characters. Yet the scene in which Po’s mother leaves him and lures away the wolves blows away anything in the first film, and the poignant exchanges between Po and his goose father should touch anyone, whether they have a connection with adoption or not.

All that is to say that this sequel has pretty much all the same ingredients as the first one: an all-star cast, a mix of animation styles, some funny lines, awkward moments, thrilling action set pieces (I particularly love the collapse of the giant pagoda), and another great villain (gleefully voiced by Gary Oldman). But the moments of sentiment are what make it a better film, in my opinion. Here’s looking forward to Kung Fu Panda 3 (and the much closer How to Train Your Dragon 2).

Best line: (the goat soothsayer, speaking to Po and anyone with a less-than-ideal childhood) “Your story may not have such a happy beginning, but that doesn’t make you who you are. It is the rest of your story, who you choose to be.”

Artistry: 6
Characters/Actors: 7
Entertainment: 7
Visual Effects: 7
Originality: 6
Watchability: 6
Other (I just like other films better): -7
TOTAL: 32 out of 60

Next: #287: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

© 2014 S. G. Liput