It seems, Summer = Sequels. Which can mean Summer = disappointment. Will the return of the panda that pulverises be a bland bowl of noodles or a fistful of chop soki?
Thankfully, the first outing was a force to rival the always excellent output from legendary Pixar and here, once again, DreamWorks seems to have "beared" (pun intended) this in mind and gone all out on breaking the rule of diminishing returns.
Visually, Panda 2 is an outstanding achievement, which, in a world where audiences now take CGI for granted, is saying something. Colours; motion; landscapes; set-pieces; all are delivered in a grand style where there is not a dud moment up on the screen. Even flashbacks are presented in their own unique way - Po's memories of his parents are stylised in traditional animation which beautifully co-exists with the modern CG work to heighten the relevance in the story arc and the villain's memory of his shameful outcasting is done like a traditional puppet play complete with characters on sticks. Add to that a chase sequence with a rickshaw that looks like it could have come from Temple Of Doom and you have it all!
Now, visuals alone do not make a movie and here we have two stories inter-woven and both are engaging. Oldman's peacock that wants to rule China with his "firework weapon" is the stronger, whilst the origins of why a panda was raised by a goose, feels slightly dragged out where only the youngest audience members won't immediately see the connection but everyone else will straight away.
The voice cast rise to the challenge and, even if some aren't given alot of spotlight this time round - Jackie Chan, David Cross - all have a great time and get some great moments. The hero shouting his speech to the villain and his army but mis-calculating the distance between them so he can't be heard, is genius and you'll wonder why no one has thought of it before.
The kids in the audience were laughing out loud throughout, and so was this big kid!
UK release date: 10/06/11