Po returns in the sequel to the 2008 Kung Fu Panda
with a new group of comrades, as well as a new enemy who threatens China and kung fu. When we last saw Po he had been made The Dragon Warrior of kung fu, a title shockingly bestowed upon a panda. He is now basking in the glory of his title while maintaining his goofy lovable self one cannot help adoring. Things drastically change for Po (voiced by Jack Black) when a new enemy threatens his home and awakens memories of his beginnings. The combination of fighting this new nemesis, the peacock Lord Shen, and trying to reconcile what happened to his birth parents is a heavy load for The Dragon Warrior and it is with the help of his friends, Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie), Mantis (voiced by Seth Rogen), Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan), Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu), and Crane (voiced by David Cross) that he is able to handle the pressure.
Kung Fu Panda 2
is an adventure story that also dives into deeper themes about love, family, loss, and adoption. Po is clearly not the biological son of the goose Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong) and the time has come for him to learn about where he came from and just how he ended up in Ping's noodle shop kitchen. The methods screenwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger take to tell Po's story as well as his and Mr. Ping's feelings over the matter is a perfect tonal blend of affection and humor. As Po learns of the devastation that befell his family at the hands of Lord Shen it is a tad frightful, and possibly too dark for younger children given some of the visuals used to depict the panda slaughter that occurred, but the sentiment is there. As well as a wonderful lesson in how a family can consist of any manner of people, it has no bearing on genetics. While the quest revolves around defeating Lord Shen the real heart of the story comes with Po growing up, learning about his origins, and achieving the greatness he has inside of him because of his life experiences.
There is also plenty of humor in the film from Po and all the rest of the characters. The mood is always high-spirited, making it possible to parlay into more serious scenes without the effect of bringing the viewer's enthusiasm or attitude down. Becoming a part of the quirkiness of the humor is part of the fun of Kung Fu Panda 2
; you can fight bad guys, be part of the seriousness of kung fu, and still have a great time doing it all. And watch out for the Pacman homage with a chinese dragon, it is quite hilarious.
In Po's world there are a variety of sounds occurring all the time. If you cast aside the dialogue, and musical score, sounds come to life all over the screen. Kung Fu Panda 2 does not neglect the importance of ambient noise, it uses them to its full advantage. By far the best, and most easy to notice perhaps, is Lord Shen's claws clicking on the floor as he stalks around. His presence as a peacock may not send shivers down your spine but the clacking sound of those claws adds a level of terror to this villain. Many of the characters are treated this way to portray their character attributes. These small but crucial sound elements add dimension to characters that is needed in animation, and it begets a more aural experience, not purely visual.
An additional excellent use of sound design occurs during the first action sequence of the film. Lord Shen's wolves have attacked the musical village in order to take metal so they may complete Shen's machine. When Po and crew defend the village sounds are used to create a musical accompaniment to the fight on screen. Every movement of a character, every time a paw meets a face, or someone or something goes crashing to the ground, the sound that is made is part of the song. The scene becomes a musical playground of kung-fu action. It is a brilliant creation on screen and absolutely wonderful to marvel at the level of detail that went into creating such a spectacle.