Well, I took my family to see Kung Fu Panda 2, and we all thought it was at least as good as the first film. It is engrossing, touching, clever, and much of the time absolutely hilarious. We had seen that the critics all panned it, and had high hopes because they are quite often wrong. Of course, it depends on how you judge these things. A lot of the surprise element is inevitably lost now that we know Po is, indeed, the Dragon Warrior in spite of his ungainly appearance and humble behaviour. And it must have been hard for the director and scriptwriters to define his new status vis a vis Shifu and the Furious Five. Furthermore - as a lot of comments here have pointed out - how on earth could they follow an act as supremely vicious and powerful as Ian McShane's Tai Lung?
All those problems are resolved in Kung Fu Panda 2 - and, I think, very satisfactorily indeed. The main dramatic engine is, of course, the villain, and Gary Oldman's rendering of the peacock Lord Shen is right up there with McShane's performance as Tai Lung. True, the peacock is not a supreme Kung Fu fighter - although he is pretty good - but he over-compensates for that by introducing mechanisation. Cleverly exploiting the fact that gunpowder and fireworks were first invented in China, the writers conceive the happy idea of making Shen set up a full-fledged production line devoted to turning out huge cannon. As Shifu and others explain, Shen's artillery has the potential to overthrow Kung Fu for once and for all - so Po and the Furious Five are fighting, not just for themselves, their friends, and the people of a conquered city, but to maintain the supremacy of their religion and their way of life. Necessarily - because cannon do not make or haul themselves - Shen commands a sizeable army of wolves and gorillas (which appear to have flat-top haircuts suggestive of the US military). So, although personally less scary than Tai Lung, he is a far more formidable enemy.
Within the constraints of a 91-minute film, an incredible amount of action takes place. After an efficient scene-setting, in which we see Shen's falling-out with his parents and his determination to seek revenge even beyond the grave, Po and the Five are dispatched by Shifu to deal with Shen and his miscellaneous artifacts and henchthings. Meanwhile, Po reflects (in his copious free time) on the task Shifu has set him: to seek "Inner Peace". Hugely outnumbered, at a great disadvantage because of Shen's artillery, and even out-thought by the wily bird, the friends seem to be up against it. But, needless to say, at the exactly perfect moment everything comes together for Po... Meanwhile the jokes come thick and fast - although you will perhaps find the film more amusing if you enjoy running gags, of which there are plenty.
It is certainly true that Kung Fu Panda 2 is darker, and there is mention of death. Indeed, it is central to the psychological aspect of the plot, as Po finds out more about where he came from and his parents. However, I noticed that the almost-empty cinema contained several small children - one little girl of perhaps five was sitting directly behind us with her father - and I didn't see any evidence of fear or unhappiness. Indeed, the tiny child behind us was volubly enthusiastic at the end, telling her father what a wonderful movie it had been and how much she enjoyed it. I think you have to give DreamWorks credit for knowing what people of all ages like and don't like. For all but determined critics, then, I think you will find Kung Fu Panda 2 a worthy sequel and perhaps, in some ways, even better than the first.