Hangover makes Kung Fu Panda an endangered species
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
May 29, 2011
You’re probably asking the same question we are: How did The Hangover Part II join the ranks of major tentpole sequels such as the Fast and the Furious and the Pirates of the Caribbean franchises…and Indiana Jones? Early word-of-mouth for the sequel could be politely described as lackluster, and it is fair to say that the film is critically reviled. Only 35% of reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes cared for the movie, and the number drops to 22% when we isolate the “Top Critics.” In fact, Rotten Tomatoes currently offers one of the strangest divides we have ever seen, as 94% of audience members indicate they love the film, rating it 4.6 out of 5. Apparently, the 28 Top Critics at Rotten Tomatoes have been shouted down by the masses. Every producer dreams of making a review-proof movie, but the reality is that Michael Bay seems to be the only one to get away with it. The Hangover Part II’s opening weekend has become an exercise in populism. It’s very simple. If you liked the first movie, you will like the second one. Sub out the tiger for a monkey in a jean jacket, and you’ve got a hit.
As surprising result as The Hangover Part II’s explosive performance is, equally shocking is the mediocre result of Kung Fu Panda 2. We often discuss the box office phenomenon that the quality of a previous film in a franchise directly correlates to the opening weekend box office of its successor. Kung Fu Panda was a beloved 2008 release that was the #6 domestic performer of the year. It was well-reviewed, an Academy Award nominee, and has found tremendous popularity on home video. That first film opened to $60.2 million in three days. Kung Fu Panda has only made $54 million in four days, and that is with holiday inflation. This is despite the fact that it is almost as well-reviewed as the first one and that the people who have gone to see it are providing quite strong word-of-mouth.
It’s as hard to point to a reason for Kung Fu Panda 2’s decline as it was for Hangover II’s success. One problem that Kung Fu Panda 2 has is that it’s simply not as focused on the comedy as the original – instead, it’s a character study with heart and emotional impact. When cutting the trailer, it would have been difficult to come up with enough gags to be as enticing as the original one was. Since we’ve had an over-saturation of animated kid flicks so far in 2011, with most of them being less than satisfying, Kung Fu Panda was also facing movie theater fatigue. Of course, that shouldn’t matter for the top level films, and you can bet it’s not going to impact Cars 2 when it opens in June.
If Kung Fu Panda 2 were a brand new DreamWorks property, this opening would be an “okay” result, nothing special. Since it’s a sequel to a well-loved film, the result is nothing short of devastating. The worst part is that people truly are going to have a hard time coming up with an explanation for what went wrong. On paper, it seems as though almost everything was done properly. The only mistake is that for a comedy, Kung Fu Panda 2 isn’t very funny. They should have added a monkey or a tiger…oh, wait. They already had those.