Unlikely martial-arts hero Po, the roly-poly panda voiced by Jack Black, is back for a second screen adventure in Kung Fu Panda 2 – and it’s another knockout combination of vibrant animation, energetic action and nifty jokes.
The hugely entertaining first film followed Po’s journey from lazy noodle waiter to fearless kung-fu warrior but never explained why a panda should have a goose for a father. All is revealed this time, as Po delves into his mysterious past in order to defeat a formidable new enemy, Lord Shen, a power-mad peacock who is seeking to conquer China and destroy kung-fu.
There’s something inherently funny about the notion of a tubby panda serving up awesome martial-arts moves and slacker-specialist Black remains a perfect fit for the role. His fellow kung-fu masters, the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie’s Tigress, Jackie Chan’s Monkey, Seth Rogen’s Mantis, Lucy Liu’s Viper and David Cross’s Crane) are less well served by the script, but Dustin Hoffman again makes his mark as Po’s tiny Yoda-like mentor Master Shifu.
Following Ian McShane from the first film as the obligatory British thespian to fill the role of villain, Gary Oldman brings silky menace to the part of the evil Shen. But Michelle Yeoh, as the goat Soothsayer whose predictions continually ruffle Shen’s feathers, upstages everyone. It’s a nice touch casting Yeoh, a memorable heroine in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and displays the film’s canny mix of reverent homage and humorous send-up of the martial-arts genre.
On general release from 10th June.