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Two filmic disappointments clouded the box office this past Memorial Weekend. “The Hangover Part II” successfully proved how a unique film idea isn’t as fresh the second time around, while “Kung Fu Panda 2” bathed in “Hangover’s” sloppy seconds, even though it’s a far superior film. In the end, “Hangover 2” might have the numbers to prove a successful venture, but “Panda” is the real narrative hero.
“The Hangover Part II”
It’s business as usual for the Wolf Pack: Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zack Galifianakis). I know what you might be thinking: where’s Doug (Justin Bartha)? Well, he doesn’t get lost in the wake during this bachelor party, that honor belongs to Stu’s fiancée, Lauren’s (Jamie Chung) brother, Teddy (Jason Lee). The crew prep for a Thailand wedding, but the morning after the bachelor party they awake to a dumpy hotel room in Bangkok, unaware of how they got there or where Teddy is. Sound familiar? It gets worse.
They search their pockets for clues and learn more about the night before from those they come in contact with. In place of a baby in the first film, the Wolf Pack find a monkey. Stu doesn’t pull out a tooth in an inebriated stupor, but he does sport the same facial tattoo as Mike Tyson. We’ve even got several other familiar faces from the first film. The entire endeavor is a shameless copy.
I suppose replicating a successful idea makes sense (just ask every other horror film), but “The Hangover” only worked as a comedy because the concept was fresh. Sadly, it doesn’t have the repackaging ability of a superhero origin story or the weeknight crime melodrama. Director, Todd Phillips, took a huge chance with the first film — using a team of rising stars rather than A-listers — but all his daring vanishes in the midst of this snore fest.
If you thought the first film was raunchy, don’t even bother with this one. The amount of genital shots increased two-fold and the rest of the jokes attempt knee-jerk quips that are just not funny. Everything about this film feels rushed, shallow and, worst of all, predictable.
“Kung Fu Panda 2”
And now for the second film set in an Asian locale. The hilarity that was “The Hangover” (emphasis on the “was”), allowed the sequel to out-earn a truly splendid sequel. The Dragon Warrior, Poe (Jack Black), and the Furious Five are back, and their foe is…a peacock named Shen (Gary Oldman). Don’t worry, he’s a hardcore peacock who uses his wingspan as a weapon and has sharp metal over his claws. Shen was once the heir to all of China until he became the banished son of a now childless empire. Years later, he’s ready to take back Gongmen City with the help of his own wolf pack (no joke) and a nifty little cannon of his own concoction. The warriors of the city quickly fall, leaving Master Shifu’s (Dustin Hoffman) pupils to take down Shen and preserve Kung Fu from the cold steel of industrialization.
The humor of the first film is more subdued here, but what the film lacks in laughs it doubles in storyline, action scenes and character development. “Kung Fu Panda” was a fun kids’ film, while the sequel has a little more to offer the older viewer. With some of the crispest animation and an acting team that shames other films, this is the winner of May.
It’s hard not to mention the voice cast — especially one as A-list ridiculous as this — so here we go: Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross, Tobias from “Arrested Development”), Mr. Ping (James Hong), Soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh), Wolf Boss (Danny McBride), Master Ox (Dennis Haysbert, or President Palmer from “24”) and, get ready, Master Croc (Jean-Claude Van Damme…yeah, that’s right), along with Black, Hoffman and Oldman. The list may be a little too long, but I imagine that speaks more to a larger desire to be involved in such a fantastic project than merely abusing a large DreamWorks Animation budget.
By the end of “Kung Fu Panda 2”, several big questions loom. Where will they go with part three (I know, but I’m not telling you)? And will Tigress and Poe take it to first base? While the first film spent most of its time introducing the characters, part two created a far more complex universe that makes you care more about the characters, and basks in a fantastic world.
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