Review: Kung Fu Panda 3
PLOT: When the lovable Kung Fu Panda discovers a part of his history, he finds that his most challenging battle has yet to come. A supernatural villain, with the ability to steal the power of those he fights, sets his sights on Po and his friends and family.
REVIEW: Even at the very beginning, it’s obvious there is something special about KUNG FU PANDA 3. Not just the opening credits, but the clever DreamWorks Animation logo is an inspired way to start things off. After that, it all leads to the rare animated trilogy that carries on without feeling like it is simply pandering to its audience. Or even worse, just a big screen toy commercial. The further adventures of Po, once again played by Jack Black, is a rich and enjoyable chapter. Not only is the original cast back, but this latest installment adds a strong villain courtesy of J.K. Simmons. Bryan Cranston also adds wonderful support to our hero Po.
After facing off against the deadly adversary Shen in the last film, Po (Black) continues to grow as the “Dragon Warrior.” However, the poor panda is still frustrated and confused by his place in a world of heroes. When he fails miserably after his instructor Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) assigns him to instruct a class, he begins to question himself even further. Things change when he is confronted by a part of his history he had never known before. And even more challenging, a villainous supernatural threat named Kai (Simmons) comes collecting the power of all Po’s peers. Soon, the Kung Fu Panda must face off against a seemingly impossible foe, one that may destroy all those he considers family and friends. And pretty much everything else for that matter.
Director Jennifer Yuh returns from KUNG FU PANDA 2, this time teaming up with first time feature film director Alessandro Carloni. The two have created a gorgeous world that is visually quite striking. The introduction to Simmons’ Kai is especially impressive as he battles his old nemesis, and familiar face within the series, Grand Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim). This incredible sequence happens in an other worldly realm, one which utilizes the 3D technology wonderfully. The animation is fantastic in general, and it helps to tell this story especially well. In fact, this is about as good as you can get when it comes to modern animated feature filmmaking.
Jack Black continues to grow as the lovable hero. His humor is perfectly suited for the extra large panda with a huge heart. When it comes to the character, his story this time around is especially touching. It is that balance of humor and heart that makes it easy for audiences to connect with the lovable animal. As for his cohorts, they don’t necessarily have the chance to shine as much. Aside from Angelina Jolie’s Tigress, most of the supporting players are underused here. Not that this is a major complaint, as the story really isn’t suited to include Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Lie) and Crane (David Cross). Although Po’s adoptive dad Mr. Ping (James Hong) has a whole lot of fun here, especially with the addition of a panda named Li (Cranston).
As a film designed for younger viewers, the lessons are especially poignant without feeling forced. The idea of just what a family is, and finding the wherewithal to grow stronger is especially impactful. The film rarely feels manipulative, and it also helps that the characters are so darn appealing. And yes, it is absolutely funny. The “chit chat” scene is absolutely hysterical. Whenever the script drifts a little too deeply into sentimentality, it manages to instill a sense of necessary hilarity. It may not break new ground with what it has to say, yet it manages to tell an adventurously engaging tale.
KUNG FU PANDA 3 is that rare third installment that remains consistently entertaining. In fact, I think this may be an even better film that part 2 - and perhaps on par with the original. It is a funny and heartfelt story that offers a ton of excitement and all the characters we’ve grown to love, with a couple of terrific new additions. It also happens to be an impressive visual ride, and even the 3D is terrific. If you’ve enjoyed the first two then you will certainly love this. This is a bright and shining example of how to do a sequel right. It will entertain all audiences willing to join in on the nuttiness of a panda with kung fu fighting skills.
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