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Kung-Fu Panda 2

Back in the early 1970’s Carl Douglas told everyone to ‘keep on kung-fu fighting’.  People of all ages did just that as his tune and the films of Bruce Lee gained prominence.  Even children were into it and those young ones from long ago will probably be taking their own offspring to see this second outing of kung-fu heroics.  Not that the title character could be considered as courageous as those fist fighting heroes although his cartoonish charms should weave a spell on budding new martial artists.

 

Having conquered the art of kung fu, Po the overweight panda has new lessons to learn.  With the help of his guru Shifu, he learns of his missing parents’ fate at the hands of the wicked peacock Shen.  Wanting to rule China by nefarious means, Shen’s bitterness of past actions has a direct impact on Po’s future.  With the help of Tigress, Monkey, Viper and Crane, Po sets out to bring down Shen and be the best martial artist the country has seen.

 

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a lot of fun and adds to Dream Works Studio’s growing catalogue of animated hits.  With a budget rumoured to be a whopping $150 million it looks amazing and a lot was riding on it being the success it is.  From the dazzling and creative action sequences to the immaculate animation, it’s obvious the Chinese setting has given the creators carte blanche in crafting spell-binding visions.  Chinese architecture is already wondrous to view and the lush surrounds coupled with technicoloured hijinks add to an overall sense of enjoyment.

 

Like most animation it can be enjoyed on many levels.  Its messages of forgoing past regret and reaching your potential are expertly interwoven amongst the nicely timed humour.  Whilst some sentimental moments creep in, there aren’t enough to slow proceedings down in mawkishness.  It’s generally a light and frothy confection with a voice cast including Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie having a grand time bringing life to the charming characters.

 

Although there are some pretty awful animated films out there, Kung Fu Panda 2 isn’t one of them.  Funny, clever and making an effort in conjuring an engaging story with some depth, it may inspire a new generation to take up the mantle Carl Douglas once enthusiastically sang about.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

Cars 2

Cars 2 clearly suffers from ‘Scrappy Do syndrome’.  This affliction first appeared in the mid 1970’s when the creators of the Scooby Do cartoon thought having his younger doggie cousin would bring in more young viewers.  Sadly it only cheapened what was already a great show and since then other animated series and films have shoe-horned annoying characters simply for the sake of doing something new.  Just like those additions it only irritates and Cars 2 features one such irritant audiences may find hard to endure.

 

Lighting McQueen is one of the fastest race-cars in the world.  Wanting to maintain his mystique he travels to Japan to participate in the World Grand Prix.  Tagging along is his friend Mater, a tow truck of low intelligence.  Continually disrupting McQueen’s racing, he becomes side-tracked when he meets a pair of spies.  Mistakenly assumed to be a covert agent, Mater becomes involved in an evil plot to destroy the world’s fuel supply.  Using what wit he has, Mater attempts to save the day in his own bumbling style.

 

Given Cars 2 is the latest production from the famed Pixar Animation Studios it’s a very disappointing effort.  It’s unfathomable that a place which produced ‘Toy Story’, ‘Up’ and ‘The Incredibles’ would craft a story full of clichéd characters which talks down to the audience.  Whilst one inevitably views these films through adult eyes, their other work remembered to be for all ages.  Its plot is also rather convoluted with the simple story-telling style Pixar established unwisely discarded.

 

The animation itself is fantastic even if the story is not.  Each scene is awash with bright colour and the computer generation imagery still amazes.  Unfortunately Cars 2 generally feels like an extended toy car commercial and – given the studio made a colossal fortune in toy sales from the last film – this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  What is surprising is why they have taken a lazy route in delivering a story where their creative spirit was so evident previously. This is only highlighted by a short feature before it called ‘Hawaiian Vacation’ which is more entertaining than the following ninety minutes.

 

When one wishes even Scrappy Do would make an appearance, you know Cars 2 is in trouble.  Although nice to look at, the script and characters are awful and hopefully this represents the lowest Pixar can go with future productions learning from its mistakes.

 

Rating out of 10:  3