Taking up where the highly popular original left off, the roly-poly, dumpling-devouring panda bear is now firmly established as Dragon Warrior Po (voiced by Jack Black) in the Valley of Peace. But dastardly Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Goldman) is determined to rule all of China from Gongmen City with his Wolf Boss (voiced by Danny McBride) and a powerful new weapon: the cannon.
So Po depends on his loyal friends, the Furious Five: Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan), Mantis (voiced by Seth Rogen), Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu), Crane (voiced by David Cross) and Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie). And there are new characters like the former bandit Master Croc (voiced by Jean-Claude Van Damme) and Soothsayer (voiced by Michelle Yeoh), Shen’s fortune-telling goat.
Part of Shen’s strategy is to bring up traumatic secrets buried in Po’s past. Namely, that Po was adopted by noodle shop owner Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong). How else could a panda have a goose for a father? And his kung-fu teacher, Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), feels that Po’s anger issues are interfering with his martial arts ability, so he has to find inner peace.
Written by the original team of Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, it’s directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who was story artist on “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar.” What makes it unusual in the animation realm is that it is a character-driven, emotionally resonant story, tackling thorny issues like abandonment, non-traditional families and self-discovery. And the DreamWorks CGI is dazzling, particularly Shen’s tail with cascading feathers and the massively spectacular, climactic battle.
Which leads to the question: Is it worth paying the extra fee for 3-D? Yes: sensing depth to the horizon in ancient China, objects leaping out from the screen in the fight sequences, even Mr. Ping chopping vegetables. That’s because, from its origin, this concept was developed as a 3-D movie.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Kung Fu Panda 2 in 3-D” is an awesome 8, an action-packed sequel.