You know a family movie is good when kids in the theater are laughing, even though the film offers lots of positive messages. That might sound a little cynical, but sometimes I wonder if filmmakers think they have to talk down to kids to get their attention, when just the opposite is true. Kids aren’t dumb. They know a great movie when they see one. ‘Kung Fu Panda 2‘ is a great movie.
As with so many sequels, it would have been really easy for director Jennifer Yuh to rest on the laurels of the first ‘Kung Fu Panda’ movie. Just make a similar movie, throw in the same colorful action, and rely heavily on Jack Black’s ability to deliver awesome, skadooshy lines.
Thankfully, she didn’t go that route. ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ still has the fast action, great lines, and colorful characters as the first movie, but she took it a step further. Yuh seized the opportunity to offer positive messages about family, friendship and never giving up, even when you think all is lost.
And you know what? These are things kids can apply in their own lives — right now. Let’s go a little further and map out five positive messages ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ offers:
1. Work with what you have. Po (voiced by Jack Black) is a plump panda. Even though he became the mighty dragon warrior in the first movie, he’s still a plump panda. The message? Don’t obsess about your so-called faults. Maximize what you have. Don’t automatically assume that because a person looks powerful or weak, that’s who they are.
2. Teamwork matters. Po needs his team to defeat a powerful villain with a massive mechanical weapon that could take out all of China. Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) all bring something important to the team.
3. Strive for balance and inner peace. Po may be a mighty warrior, but he starts out the movie thinking that action and fighting is always the answer. By the end of the movie, he realizes that inner peace is much more powerful than all the fighting in the world.
4. One person can make a difference. The situation looks bleak as Po and the Furious Five organize to defeat a powerful villain. But in the end, it’s Po’s selflessness that turns things around. You matter. You can make a difference, even when faced with a massive weapon (subtle message about real-world politics?).
5. Family is created by love and nurturing, not necessarily biology. One of the best themes in ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ is that adoptive families are real families. Po comes to realize that he was adopted by his dad Mr. Ping and starts questioning his origins. By the end of the movie, he realizes that he is indeed Mr. Ping’s real son, because Mr. Ping loves and cares for him as any dad would his own son.
Check out these other reviews of ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ (not all as positive as mine!):
Erik Childress, eFilmCritic.com: “At just over 80 minutes and what seems like four climaxes in the final thirty, ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ gives us no time to breathe, grasp or care about the mission nor Po’s daddy issues. Even with a couple nice scenes between him and his goose father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), the film betrays its own happy ending with a cliffhanger that the television ads have displayed no hesitation in spoiling.”
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media: “By taking the storyline in a more serious, though still entertaining, direction — Po yearns to discover and understand where he came from, and the movie makes a strong point that your past need not define you — it has more heft and heart, a potent and sometimes profound combination.”
Eric D. Snider, ericdsnider.com: “…it’s fun, the kids will like it, and it doesn’t condescend to them the way a lot of children’s entertainment does. You could do a lot worse than to take your goslings or panda cubs to see it some Saturday afternoon.”
Images: DreamWorks Animation