The universal theme of determining your own destiny regardless of your roots rings true with mother- of- six Angelina Jolie, writes Neala Johnson
My kids will choose their own destiny.
IF ANYONE is going to read deeper meaning into the new animated sequel Kung Fu Panda 2, it’s the bumper brood of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
The Jolie-Pitt children have come together from different backgrounds and different corners of the globe to form a family.
And that, says mother Jolie ( pictured), reminds her a lot of her Kung Fu Panda character Tigress and her ‘‘ adopted’’ family of kung-fu fighters: Master Shifu ( Dustin Hoffman), panda Po ( Jack Black) and the rest of the Furious Five – Monkey ( Jackie Chan), Crane ( David Cross), Viper ( Lucy Liu) and Mantis ( Seth Rogen).
‘‘ My children have seen it and they loved it and they laughed out loud. But I was very curious about how they’d react to the family themes of it,’’ Jolie says of the sequel.
‘‘ My character, we saw in the first film that she was raised in an orphanage and then she was adopted by Shifu. And in this one, Po – who’s her friend, kind of, she’s got a bit of an attitude with him – discovers that he’s adopted.’’
So what did the kids – Maddox, Pax, Zahara, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne – take away from Kung Fu Panda 2?
Jolie reckons it was the knowledge that, no matter their beginnings or their paparazzi-documented present, only they can decide who they will become.
‘‘ It’s about a search for self and that’s something, no matter how you were born, no matter who we are or where we’re from, that is such a big theme,’’ she says.
‘‘ Who we are and who we decide to be in life, not being defined by our parents, our past, the way we look, where we’re from, anything about that. We make the choice. I love the themes of it.’’
Though better known for acting tough ( Salt, Mr & Mrs Smith and Wanted) and tough acting ( Girl, Interrupted and A Mighty Heart ), Kung Fu Panda allows Jolie to play with what she calls her ‘‘ goofy’’ side.
The first film in 2008 followed the journey of Po from bumbling dreamer to martial-arts hero and took $ 600 million worldwide. After that, a sequel was a given. In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po must face up to his past and confront a new villain, a peacock voiced to nasty perfection by Gary Oldman.
Jolie calls Tigress ‘‘ hardcore and repressed’’ and this time the feline is kicking butt in 3D.
‘‘ I am getting goofier as I get older. And kids certainly help you stay connected to that silly side of yourself and all the fun,’’ Jolie says.
But she adds she would have done a film like this whether she had children or not. ‘‘ I do love these movies. And I think these movies are actually better than a lot of the movies out there – the animated movies have actually become equal to if not better than traditional dramatic films because they have so much in them and there’s so much time taken and they handle such big themes.
‘‘ Kung Fu Panda 2 is actually one of the more complex stories I’ve ever been involved in. But it’s also great that all my kids can see them.’’ She stops and laughs. ‘‘ My family’s the test audience! I brought my kids from two to nine to see it, so I felt I got a good gauge. I could call ( DreamWorks Animation boss) Jeffrey Katzenberg and say, ‘ We’re good, from age ranges two to nine, it’s working!’ ’’
However, one dark cloud hangs over the kids’ reaction to the film.
‘‘ They love Tigress and they love Po,’’ says Jolie, ‘‘ but I’m a little afraid that Gary Oldman’s taken some of my cool away. They now think the peacock’s cooler than Mummy, but I’ll get it back!’’
There should be plenty of opportunity for that.
Though Jolie has talked about dialling back the number of films she makes in future, Katzenberg has been making frequent mention of the original story-arc being a six-parter. If that comes to pass, Jolie may be a grandmother by the time she says farewell to Tigress for good.
‘‘ Jack and I, we didn’t know going into it and we’re blind in the forest again now, we have no idea what’s coming up.
‘‘ As far as I know, Po and Tigress could end up married. I have no idea what they’re going to do to us. We’ll have little tiger-panda babies,’’ she laughs. ‘‘ I’m up for wherever it goes.’’
‘‘ Kung Fu Panda 2 is actually one of the more complex stories I’ve ever been involved in. But it’s also great that all my kids can see them’’