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Featured DVD / Blu-ray Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

December 10th, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Kung Fu Panda came out in the summer of 2008 and earned excellent reviews, and even an Oscar nomination. It also pulled in more than $200 million domestically and $600 million worldwide, so it should come as no surprise that a sequel was made. However, can Kung Fu Panda 2 live up to its predecessor? And is it worth checking out? Or perhaps even buying?

The Movie

The film begins with a prologue telling the origins of Lord Shen. It begins with an invention designed to bring happiness to people, fireworks. But as a child, Shen experimented with fireworks and learned they could be used as a weapon. His parents were worried about this dark path he was on, so they consulted a soothsayer and are warned that if he continues, he will be defeated by a black and white warrior. When he hears this, he reacts by killing all of the Pandas. Horrified, his parents banish him, but he vows revenge on all of China.

Flash forward to the present, or the present of the movies, and Lord Shen is working on his doomsday weapon, but he needs a lot of metal to complete it, so he sends his minions to steal every bit of metal they can find. Fortunately, Po and the Furious Five arrive in time to stop them. Unfortunately, just when it looks like they will be victorious, Po sees a symbol on lead bandit's clothing and has a flashback, and in his moment of distraction, the bandits get away. After that, Po returns to his father to find out where he came from. Po always thought he was adopted, after all, his father is a goose and he is not, but having his suspicions confirmed hits Po hard. Without an ability to concentrate, his Kung Fu suffers. And since Lord Shen wants to destroy Kung Fu, he will need to be at the top of his game to survive.

The quick and lazy way to review this film is to compare it to Kung Fu Panda. If you loved that movie, you will almost assuredly like this movie. If you thought The Furious Five was the best part of that movie, then you might not like this one nearly as much, because apart from Tigress, they were barely in the movie. I didn't count, because I'm not that obsessive compulsive, but if you were to tell me that Monkey, Mantis, Viper and Crane had just a dozen lines combined, I would not be terribly surprised. Mr. Ping, Po's father, was a bigger part of the story. However, this is not a bad thing. While the central conflict is driven by Lord Shen's quest for revenge, the heart of the movie is the father / son relationship and how Po's desire to learn where he came from threatens that. I would argue that this part makes Kung Fu Panda 2 better than its predecessor.

Kung Fu Panda 2 also has plenty of action in the film, so it holds up well in that regard. Outside of a few actions scenes that either went on just a tad too long or that relied a little too much on over-stylization (too much slow motion and / or obvious 3-D pandering) it was a very fun ride. In fact, my biggest complaint about the movie is that Jean-Claude Van Damme had so few lines in the film.

The Extras

The DVD is loaded with extras starting with an audio commentary track that is informative and energetic. Secret of the Masters is a 23-minute long short film that is only available on DVD as part of the Double-Pack. It tells the story how the three Kung Fu masters introduced in the film first met. Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness is an episode of the TV series. Kickin' It With the Cast is a 13-minute featurette on the voice actors. There are three deleted scenes, in early test form, with intros. Panda Stories is an 8-minute featurette on the real world efforts to save the pandas. There are two interactive sections, a game and Mandarin lessons.

The Blu-ray have a few exclusive extras, starting with a Picture-in-Picture track, which is not the same as the audio track. There is also a trivia track and an interactive map of locations that the animators visited as inspiration for the movie. As for the the film's technical presentation, it is reference quality in both audio and video. Detail levels, colors, black levels, contrast, etc. are all perfect. Needless to say, there are no compression artifacts. The audio is crystal clear and immersive. Plus, the Blu-ray only costs $1 more than the equivalent Double-Pack DVD.

The Verdict

When I included Kung Fu Panda 2 on our holiday gift guide, I was a little worried that it wouldn't live up to the original or that the Blu-ray wouldn't have enough extras to be worth picking up, but those fears were unfounded. The DVD is worth buying, while the Blu-ray Combo Pack is Pick of the Week material. The only concern is if you are looking for 3-D, in which case you have to head over to Best Buy for now.

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Filed under: Video Review, Kung Fu Panda 2