As far as DreamWorks Animation franchises go, the Kung Fu Panda series is way ahead of the likes of Shrek and Madagascar, but it still pales in comparison to most of the output from rival animation studio Pixar. The second installment in the series continues on amiably enough, furthering the adventures of excitable panda Po (voiced by Jack Black), who is somehow a kung-fu prodigy known as the Dragon Warrior despite sometimes being unable to put one foot in front of the other. After proving himself a worthy warrior in the first movie, Po has now been burdened with some tragic backstory, the kind of prefab mythmaking that tends to infest any long-running Hollywood franchise.
Fans of the original Kung Fu Panda will probably enjoy this outing as well, although the novelty factor has inevitably diminished, and now that Po is a kung-fu master, the lessons to be learned are a little muddled. Gary Oldman has a fun time voicing the new villain, an evil peacock who has designs on taking over all of ancient China, but the conflict is rarely thrilling. Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who was responsible for the striking opening sequence in the original, takes over the whole movie this time, reusing that cut-out style for the prologue, as well as creating flashbacks that look more like hand-drawn animation. Most of Kung Fu Panda 2, though, is standard kid-targeted computer animation, amusing enough at times but doing little to justify the continuation of its story.