Review: “Kung Fu Panda 2”

"Yes, those jeans do make you look fat."

"Why lie? We love your sister much more than we love you."

"No matter how many grown men cried in 'Toy Story 3,' Pixar might not be the king of animated movies anymore."

There are certain things you're simply not supposed to say out loud.

Since last year, when "How to Train Your Dragon" was roundly ignored in favor of "Toy Story 3," a sweet but, it could be argued (and has been amongst PopcornBiz staffers), inferior product to both "…Dragon" and "The Illusionist," the third Oscar-nominated animated feature of 2010, we've had our eye on Dreamworks Animation, hoping it would pull a Rocky-esque underdog KO of the beloved Emeryville engine that can and does time and again.

It's not that we have any ill will toward Pixar. Quite the opposite in fact. We love almost every film they've ever done ("The Incredibles" was a stinker). But healthy competition is good for everyone, especially audiences. When the bar is raised by one company, it forces rivals to step their game up and suddenly entertainment gets a whole lot better.

Well, cue "Eye of the Tiger" and someone send John Lasseter a memo, because Dreamworks' latest offering, "Kung Fu Panda 2," proves they've come to play.

Directed by first-timer Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who previously honed her skills in Dreamworks' story and art department, the movie follows newly minted Dragon Warrior Po (voiced by Jack Black) and his fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five (not to be confused with Fast Five or anything else with Vin Diesel, this five is voiced by Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu) as they battle a villain (the deliciously devilish Gary Oldman) who seeks to destroy kung fu.

Serving up an effervescent mixture of grand spectacle, charming comedy and action, the movie delights on every level but truly dazzles thanks to its glorious tactile quality that actually justifies strapping on the most obnoxiously ubiquitous accessory of recent movie going: 3D glasses.

"How to Train Your Dragon's" flying sequences were so impressive, they made James Cameron look like he'd been puttering around on iMovie. "Kung Fu Panda 2" is equally effective, allowing the scenes on screen, from epic battles to thoughtful moments of introspection, to drape around the audience like a giant bear hug.

Witty, touching and magical, "Kung Fu Panda 2" proves Dreamworks Animation can throw down the gauntlet when it comes to creating exceptional animated enchantment that speak to adults and children alike.

Pixar, you've been warned.

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