With taglines like “the weight is over” and “grab destiny by the dumplings”, it’s no wonder animation movie fans are clamouring for the third instalment to the Kung Fu Panda franchise, aptly titled Kung Fu Panda 3. Produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by 20th Century Fox, Kung Fu Panda 3 follows the great Dragon Warrior/affable panda, Po, and his band of fellow kung fu fighting animal friends, collectively known as the Furious Five, in their quest to once again save China from the clutches of evil.
The plot begins in the spirit realm where we are introduced to the nasty and monstrous warrior, Kai, who is determined to exact revenge on the late Master Oogway by destroying his legacy and ridding the world of all kung fu masters. Naturally, as per the previous two Kung Fu Panda movies, it is up to Po and the Furious Five to stop Kai, only this time they’ll require help from Po’s long lost father (voiced by the great Bryan Cranston) and his panda brethren.
I had just watched Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2 about three days prior to attending the premiere for Kung Fu Panda 3 so the story, style and characters were still fresh in my mind. Unlike many sequels, which usually lack the same authenticity, gripping narrative and visual spectacle as their predecessors, I found Kung Fu Panda 3 to be as good, if not better than the previous Kung Fu Panda movies.
The standout reason for my enjoyment of the movie was very much due to the fact that Kai, the evil spirit being wanting to destroy the most sacred form of martial art in China, and Li, Po’s long lost panda father, were hilarious. J.K Simmons had always been the type of actor who could pull off humour while being 100% serious and keeping a poker face, an attribute that certainly came through in his voicing of Kai. Similarly, Bryan Cranston was brilliant in his portrayal of Li, an equally dim-witted panda as his son, Po. But the character that is most deserving of praise is none other than Po’s adoptive father, the noodle obsessed Goose, Mr. Ping. Ping (voiced by James Hong of Mulan fame), was consistently funny throughout Kung Fu Panda 3, with his parental obsession toward keeping Po constantly fed and sudden outbursts of suspicion and jealousy of Li. The sarcasm and facial expressions pulled by Ping were a hoot and had me laughing in my seat.
It was also refreshing to see Po taking his kung fu a bit more seriously this time, having mastered the art since the first movie instalment. Of course, the great Dragon Warrior is not quite as skilled as we would like to believe, with Po finding it incredibly difficult when given the task of teaching kung fu. As expected, mishaps ensue, which leads to a disheartened Po, that is, until the threat making its way to China is made known.
The scenes of Po’s interaction with his fellow pandas and both his fathers is certainly one to note. We are introduced to a myriad of panda characters, each with their own distinctive features and special traits. It both baffles and amazes me at how dim the pandas are made out to be at first, enjoying their life and eating all the time (seriously, All. The. Time). Their carefree nature and complete obliviousness as to the dangers facing them was rather off putting initially as I had expected a bit more from the pandas and certainly a whole lot more from Li, who appeared to take his reunion with his son a bit too lightly for my liking.
I’d expected a lot more backstory and getting to know one another on a much deeper level, alas, this is a children’s movie after all.
As a fan of ancient and medieval history, particularly that of Ancient China and Feudal Japan, it was a delight to feel that sense of culture and focus on authenticity in the China depicted in Kung Fu Panda 3.
The art and music soundtrack were used masterfully to create a fantastical world of great warriors, epic battles and most of all the power and sheer brilliance of the martial art of kung fu. Unlike older animated movies, the characters in Kung Fu Panda 3 appeared to move more fluidly, therefore looking more realistic as well as being believable as kung fu practitioners. This made for a more realistic view of the world within Kung Fu Panda 3 and one that I felt I could identify with. My favourite aspect of the movie would have to be the unique use of the jade stone, which is used in a variety of forms, from evil minions, to power containing pendants to weapons. I might be slightly biased though as green is my favourite colour.
Much like its predecessors, Kung Fu Panda 3 is yet another DreamWorks Animation hit that is sure to keep the youngsters entertained. An adult, however, would require a whole lot more depth to the movie’s narrative. Nonetheless, taking the movie for what it is, I must admit that I enjoyed myself. The characters, both good and evil were amusing and certainly funny. The art style and music were simply visually and audibly stunning and most importantly, Kung Fu Panda 3, just like most children’s animated movies before it, has a very special moral message to be taken away, that is to never give up, believe in yourself and believe in the power of family.
Kung Fu Panda 3 hits cinemas March 24. Be sure to grab your tickets and check it out. I can guarantee you’ll laugh, even if it’s just once.
*For more pop culture and anime rantings and reviews, check out my blog, The Vanguard.
Running Time: 95 MIN
Genre: Animated, Family
Director:Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni
Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J. K. Simmons, James Hong, Jackie Chan Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson