Weekend Movies: Memorial Weekend Sequel Battle

Memorial Day began at the box office on Thursday this year. Going head-to-head in theaters this weekend are two #2s, one for the whole family and one just for the adults.

Opening on IMAX, 3D and 2D screens is the DreamWorks’ sequel ‘Kung Fu Panda 2‘. The original 2008 hit ‘Kung Fu Panda‘ opened with $60 million and ended up grossing over $200 million domestically. Considering that ‘Kung Fu Panda’ joined the ranks of Pixar for overall merit, expect even bigger numbers from the sequel.

The storytelling gets taken up another notch in ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’. Now settled in as the Dragon Warrior, Po (Jack Black) must defeat a new power-hungry villain who has the weapons to take over all of China. Because the villain played an influential role in Po’s childhood, ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ takes a turn to the dark side as we learn what caused Po to be raised by a goose and not his Panda parents. I’ll bet you weren’t expecting Panda genocide in a Memorial Day family flick, were you?

Despite delving into such dark subject matter, ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ has just as inspirational a message at its core as the first film. The road getting to it is dark and grim, but very well worth the ride. ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’ is one of those rare sequels that feels more like a continuation of the original than a quick ploy to capitalize on the success of the original – unlike the other sequel being released this week.

Because ‘The Hangover‘ tracked so well with test audiences, ‘The Hangover Part II‘ was greenlit even prior to the first film’s release. But the studio made a big mistake in its choice of writers. Instead of bringing back the two guys who wrote ‘The Hangover’, director Todd Phillips took a crack at the screenplay himself with the guy who wrote the later ‘Scary Movie’ sequels and the guy who wrote ‘Old School‘ and ‘The Heartbreak Kid‘.

Upon seeing the trailer for ‘The Hangover Part II’, if you thought to yourself, “That looks exactly like the first one,” you were right. ‘The Hangover Part II’ is nothing more than a bad photocopy of the original on a different colored paper. The duo who wrote the first ‘Hangover’ deserve to get paid for writing ‘Part II’. The layout and format are exactly the same. Only the location and the person lost have changed.

I quit watching the American version of ‘The Office’ after Season Three because it started getting too ridiculous. When Michael drove a car into a lake because his GPS told him to, I was finished. ‘The Hangover Part II’ is reminiscent of that turn for the worse. In the midst of echoing jokes and plot from the original, while striving for originality that out-does the first, ‘Part II’ turns to the ridiculous, unbelievable and unwatchable. The movie opened yesterday.

Opening in just four theaters is Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winnerThe Tree of Life‘, which is set for a limited platform release over the next few weeks. Being touted as a Malick’s masterpiece, ‘Tree of Life’ appears to be the year’s first Best Picture Oscar contender.


  1. I loved the first Kung Fu Panda, but I’ve got to be honest that the trailers for the sequel look pretty much exactly like you describe Hangover II – a pale retread of the original. Maybe they’re just not selling it well?

    • They aren’t selling it well. They need to be advertising it as an origin story, because that’s what it is and that’s why it’s a pretty good movie.

      The first half is still pretty slow and far too much kiddie humor that may bore adults, but the second half makes up for it. The second half is really good.

    • TJ Kats

      This is what I thought as well. If they just aren’t selling it well then I may have to take the kids out to see it this weekend.

        • I don’t really understand the rave reviews for it. Ebert gave it 3 1/2 stars, and I thought that was a bit much. The beginning is pretty dull, and just retreads old ‘Kung Fu Panda’ jokes, but after that the movie really picks up and gets good with a good amount of emotion.

  2. Onslaught

    The first hour of KFP2 is just constant action. All flash, no substance. It has its laughs here and there, has some beautifully choreographed scenes, but the last half hour is darn near terrific. It saves the movie and brings back the heart and charm that the first one had throughout the film, but is seemingly missing for at least half the film in this installment.

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