Bear You Have It: Kung Fu Panda 2 Charms

Mighty martial-arts panda Po (Jack Black) may still be portly, yet in every other respect, his Kung Fu Panda 2 is a fleeter, funnier beast than its 2008 predecessor. The complicated emotional ramifications of adoption are the prime focus of this follow-up, which concerns Po's quest for identity and inner peace, goals that are maturely posited as only attainable through confronting, and then letting go of, the past. Po's search for self takes the form of a showdown against Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), a genocidal peacock who murdered Po's birth parents, and who's now determined to conquer China with the use of a fiery cannon. That modern weapon spells potential doom for the ancient art of kung fu, and the saga that it spawns—marked by Black's buoyant vocal performance—is amusing and exciting. With bouncy animation augmented by not-terrible 3-D, and a rollicking spirit reminiscent of the films of Jackie Chan (who returns to voice Po's Furious Five comrade, Monkey), Jennifer Yuh Nelson's sequel delivers a bevy of superpowered set pieces that are dexterous and delirious, as well as tonally confident. As fists and feet fly, wisecracking humor flows naturally from the combat, lending this assured adventure a self-deprecating lightheartedness.

 
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