Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Kung Fu Panda 2

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for sequences of martial arts action and mild violence
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:Mild potty humor
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:Martial arts action and violence, children separated from parents, characters in peril
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:May 27, 2011

Po, the kung-fu master panda (Jack Black), has everything he hoped for in the first movie.  He has the martial arts skills to protect and impress the community and he is accepted as a teammate by the greatest champions in China.  But he has not yet found inner peace, and that will require an even greater struggle.

Po has not wanted to think about the fact that his father is not a panda, until a glimpse of an all-but-forgotten insignia on an enemy unlocks some memories so painful Po does not want to think about.  But a new villain (Gary Oldman as the peacock Lord Shen) is the most vicious Po has faced, and he cannot be defeated unless Po understands the tragedy that links them together.  He cannot fight his memories and his adversaries at the same time.  Po must make peace with his past to move on to the future.

As with the first one, this film combines exquisite, Asian-influenced design and a story that includes the classic heroic themes and gentle humor.  The action sequences are exciting, especially a sensational scene with our heroes hiding out in a dragon costume.  Before the peril gets too tense, there is always a laugh to remind us that we are safe with Po.  “Ah,” he says, walking into battle, “my old enemy — stairs!”

It has some nice parallels — Po and Lord Shen were both given up by their parents, for different reasons.  And both make use of fight techniques that can be used for good or evil.  The same gunpowder that creates inspiring firework displays can be weaponized into something that could mean the end of kung fu.  Po fights for freedom and for the discipline and skill of martial arts itself.

It opens with some background, beautifully told with traditional shadow puppets.  Po’s existential crisis is handled deftly, with the reassuring message that even when the beginning of our story is not happy, that does not have to control who we are.

Parents should know that this film has extended action sequences with characters in peril, martial arts, threats, fire, discussions of parents sending children away (in one case, for bad behavior), issues of adoption and a sense of abandonment or loss, a metaphoric ethnic cleansing, and some potty humor.  There is a reassuring coda that leaves the door open for a reunion.  The praying mantis mentions twice that the females bite off the males’ heads.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Po ask about his past earlier?  What was the biggest obstacle he had to overcome?  Why did Lord Shen think that his plan would make him feel better?  What would it be like if wars were fought with kung fu today?  What is “hard style” and is it “your thing?”

If you like this, try: the first “Kung Fu Panda” and the “Ice Age” series



  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Tim1974

    I saw the show, though not in 3-D, and enjoyed it. How could anyone not like Po as he attempts to find inner peace? I believe that the constant action kept the viewers engaged throughout. I also enjoyed the little bits of humor that were included. The mistaken identity, due to the chin hair, reminded me of things my Grandmother use to talk about and it brought back humorous, fond memories. I found this to be a film where you could go, sit back, relax, and just enjoy it.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Tim! I’m glad you enjoyed the film as much as I did.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Joanie

    Nell, somehow, I want to get the word out to parents that the new X-Men movie is NOT like the others. This movie is borderline R rated at times due to the sex scenes. Have you seen it? Me and my teens were so embarrassed at the gratuitious sex scenes, etc. If you review this movie, I will add more comments – but I wanted to put a warning out there because there were tons of families with little kids in the theatre who had to leave, or try to explain things. Why does Hollyweird do this crap? THOR was a perfect example that a fun movie can be made with no sex and no swearing. When will they get a clue?

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Joanie. I have been away all week but will post the review shortly and I hope you will comment on it.

  • http://www.thelmadams.com/wordpress Thelma Adams

    Hi, Nell, You and I have talked family movies recently and I review for a more adult set at Us Weekly. SPOILERS! But I did want to open a door on an issue I didn’t even address in my Us Weekly review and you describe as “a metaphoric ethnic cleansing.” That’s exactly the right term to use, Nell. I know our kids are tough but there is a scene in which the wolves victimize the pandas — set in the past — and scary wolves chase infant Po’s mother through a burning forest until she places him in a cabbage crate for safe-keeping. And the impression is given that she sacrifices her own life to save Po — and that the rest of the pandas are gone. That seemed pretty disturbing to me in view of younger viewers, and I assume that’s why you’ve written that this movie is for 4th thru 6th graders.

    for my review: http://thelmadams.com/wordpress/?p=1313

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Thelma, and exactly right. The species-based hostilities of the storyline seemed especially disturbing to me, and the reassuring coda was too little, too late.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment monkie

    I took the older two (and a friend) to see this in 3D over the weekend. It wasn’t the best we’ve seen, but it wasn’t the worst either. I liked the way the relationship between Po and his adoptive father was portrayed, and I liked the message about the villain’s parents never having stopped loving him, despite having sent him away. I thought it was sweet that the soothsayer, even after everything that had happened, wished only for Shen to find happiness. Most of all, I LOVED the interplay between all the kung fu masters as they played off each other’s strengths to fight the bad guys with perfectly timed teamwork. Yet despite all these strengths, the movie never really came together for me enough to make me feel for the characters. I judge an animated movie by how much time I spend trying to figure out who voices which character (I’m really bad at recognizing voices, so it could potentially last the whole movie) before I sink into the story, and this time I never really sunk.

    Also, that 5 second blurb at the end… do I smell a sequel?

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Monkie! Great points, especially about the interplay of the kung fu masters. Much appreciated!

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