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Kung Fu Panda–Orion’s Take

Po the Panda

Po is pretty fat. But he lost weight.

Watching Po’s master, Master Shifu, carry a drop of water from the air to a plant on the ground is impressive.  Like Po, the audience clamors to see it again.  We look at it as a cool diversion, a flashy move to show it off to our friends.  No, no, says Master Sifu.  This is the result of “inner peace.”  If the viewer takes the journey to inner peace for granted, as I did, assuming that Po will achieve it by the end, never mind the journey, they will be pleasantly surprised.  The destination is indeed inevitable.  But the journey is a breathtakingly funny and moving one.

Po the panda, played once again by a hilarious Jack Black, has everything he wanted in the first film: cool companions (the Furious Five), kung fu, lots of food—in other words, life is good.  But not all is well in China.  A villain is stirring in Gongmen City—Lord Shen, played with elegant villainy by Gary Oldman.  Lord Shen, a peacock, had been experimenting with firework weapons, when a soothsayer predicted that “a warrior of black and white” would one day defeat him.  Assuming that this is a reference to pandas, Lord Shen killed all the pandas he could find, leading his horrified parents to banish him.

Many years later, Po is involved in a fight with Lord Shen’s wolf minions when a symbol on a wolf’s armor sends him into a flashback—he sees a female panda, who he assumes is his mother, fading into the snow.  Suddenly unsure of his identity, Po confronts his father (a goose) who admits to Po that he is adopted.  Big surprise, yes?

It’s hard to get at the soul of this film in a synopsis—somehow Kung Fu Panda 2 manages to strike that perfect balance between humor and darkness.  It reminded me of Toy Story 3 in the way it managed to make me laugh one second and tear up in the next.  And when Po finally achieves inner peace, my heart swelled within my chest—I felt like I couldn’t breathe—and yet I felt perfectly content.

5/5 Waffles

-Orion

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