90 minutes

A rare case of a sequel that lives up to its original, the second installment in what Dreamworks Animation expects (box-office helping) to turn into a long-running series is a highly enjoyable action comedy bucking the studio's trend of tying up flimsily a run of pop-culture sitcom jokes to a thin plot thread.
     On Kung Fu Panda 2, returning screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger and director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (a story artist on the first film) deftly navigate the Dragon Warrior title ursine Po (again voiced by Jack Black) through a journey of self-discovery. His trek to Gongmen City to stop the dastardly plans of evil peacock ruler Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman) and his all-conquering firework-cannon weapon is also a trek to find out the truth about himself as an adopted child - especially since his and Shen's destinies have long been inextricably linked, as the kind, wise and very determined Soothsayer (voiced by Michelle Yeoh) reveals.
     But this serious narrative strand is more than lightened up by the lively, playful quality of the deft physical comedy invoked by the script (smartly voiced by the entire returning cast of the original) and ms. Nelson's team of expert animators, making Kung Fu Panda 2 into the animated equivalent of one of the classic Jackie Chan action comedies of the 1980s. Above all, the film's biggest strength lies in the dazzlingly fluid, exquisitely rendered animation, simultaneously delicate and dynamic, even within the many fleet-footed action sequences. The confidence and quality levels are such that they even allow for a lovely prologue presented in orientalised animated cutouts and a series of recurring flashbacks in stylised Japanese-type animation. Kung Fu Panda 2 turns out to be a stronger, more solid film — and a much better one — than its predecessor.

With the voices of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Gary Oldman, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Michelle Yeoh; and Jackie Chan.
     Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson; produced by Melissa Cobb; written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger; music by Hans Zimmer and John Powell; production designer, Raymond Zibach; film editor, Clare Knight; visual effects supervisor, Alex Parkinson.
     A Dreamworks Animation presentation/production. (US distributor and world sales, Paramount Pictures.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 9 (Lisbon), June 3rd 2011. 


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