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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

SIFF Review: Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda 2, a mostly harmless sequel to its mostly harmless predecessor, is more notable for being the only Dreamworks film since 1998’s Prince of Egpyt to be directed by a woman, Jennifer Yuh, than for anything it contains it its relatively hefty (for a kiddie flick), toddler bladder-testing running time of 95 minutes.

Peppy pacing mostly keeps the storyline flowing along, and if your kids (or you) haven’t seen the first Kung Fu Panda, you should be able to keep up. In the first iteration of the franchise, Po the Panda (energetically voiced by Jack Black) was chosen as the Dragon Warrior in spite of being obese, clumsy and completely incompetent. Everybody hated him because he was obese and clumsy and completely incompetent and ate all the food, then they liked him because he got good at Kung Fu. Then he ran away to the 2008 Cannes Film Festival with Angelina Jolie after kicking Brad Pitt’s ass in a kung fu match. Or something like that, the details aren’t that important.

Just know that Po the Panda is now the Dragon Warrior, and he hangs in the Valley of Peace with his fellow warriors (including aforesaid Jolie as the sleek, sexy Tigress, rrrrrrrrowww) and his Yoda-like mentor Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). As an aside, anyone remember the days when animated films didn’t have to have big movie star names attached to them? Anyone?

So in this new Kung Fu, we get to learn the reason why Po is the last panda left, and he gets to match up against the enemy who killed his parents and all the other pandas and take his glorious, bloody revenge upon him and impale his enemy’s head upon a stick in the smoldering ruins of his castle stronghold. Er, I mean, he’ll try to reason with the guy, of course, and understand his feelings and his Mommy-and-Daddy-exiled-me angst, and why he felt he had to kill all the cute little pandas. And then, seeing their similarities are more than their differences, they’ll work through their conflicts using the Non-Violent Communication model to reach consensus, and be BFFs 4Ever while Elton John croons a touching closer.

Or something like that.

It’s all very colorful, and the pacing clips right along. There’s a deliciously bad bad guy who doesn’t really have a reason to be so bad (well, at least before he got exiled), and lots of bad wolves running amok. Why are the wolves always the bad guys? Why not the squirrels, or the hedgehogs? No one knows.

Important lessons are learned along the way, blah blah blah, and there are plenty of fights that are exciting without being too scary or violent for most small fry. Yes, it’s predictable, but so are the books you probably read to the kids at bedtime, right? Kids like predictable. They have their whole lives to care about character arcs and dramatic tension and movies being interesting.

We saw the 3-D version, and let me just say, I am starting to hate 3-D. It’s too damn dark, and most of the awesome 3-D effects are gratuitous. I don’t like it, I don’t need it. But … my kids love it. They love the special 3-D glasses, they squeal with delight as something swoops toward them, they jump when something looks like it’s going to hit them. They dig it. And since the only reason I’m going to a movie like this anyhow is for them, I might as well suck it up and do the 3-D, right? That’s what enough of us do to keep studios cranking them out, anyhow.

This film is fine for the younger set, and not completely intolerable for the grownup forced to accompany their kid to see it. Worst case, you snack through the previews, then get a 95-minute nap while your kids have a good time. Or something like that.

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One Response to “SIFF Review: Kung Fu Panda 2”

  1. Jill Kennedy says:

    I’m taking my 5 year old daughter tomorrow. Can’t wait. Here’s a funny review from a Finnish film reviewer attempting to write in English. I think he likes it.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon