THE STORY – Living large and loving life, Po (Jack Black) realizes that he has a lot to learn if he’s going to fulfill the next challenge from his beloved instructor (Dustin Hoffman). After reuniting with his long-lost father (Bryan Cranston), Po must transition from student to teacher and train a group of fun-loving, clumsy pandas to become martial-arts fighters. Together, the kung-fu brethren unite to take on the evil Kai (J.K. Simmons), a supernatural warrior who becomes stronger with each battle.
THE CAST – Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Kate Hudson, Randall Duk Kim & Jackie Chan
THE TEAM – Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni (Directors), Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 95 Minutes
By Matt N.
Swinging back into action for round three is Dreamwork’s unexpected hit franchise “Kung Fu Panda.” In its third outing, “Kung Fu Panda 3” is a film that will surely entertain kids, and possibly adults. The animation is just as striking as ever, and the story is heartfelt enough with a good message to boot. However, that message is one that has progressed over 3 films and threatens to wear itself thin with more seasoned movie goers.
Po (Jack Black) is having a hard time understanding his true self. He knows he is the “dragon warrior” and does what he can to protect the village he now calls home, alongside his friends Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Crane (David Cross) and Master Shift (Dustin Hoffman). When an old bull-like warrior named Kai (J.K. Simmons) emerges from the spirit world on a mission to claim everyone’s chi (A Star Wars force like power in every fighter), Po receives an unexpected visit from his true father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), and sets off on a journey to find the strength and wisdom to take on the evil antagonist.
Let’s start with the positives first. The animation in this film and for this series has been jaw dropping. Influenced by asian cinema and various kung fu films, the style of these films have been nothing short of astounding. The computer animation and sequences of 2d animation are a wonder to behold. These films utilize their 3-D to their fullest potential to give them that extra wow factor, especially during the fight scenes. There are even a few neat editing tricks during the montages that help to keep the pace going strong throughout. The original voice cast returns and adds dramatic heavyweights such as J.K. Simmons and Bryan Cranston to the proceedings, and all turn in fine work. I have to give the edge to the scenes involving Jack Black and Bryan Cranston. Cranston emits a warmth in his voice that highlights Li Shan’s caring nature for his long lost son, while Jack Black’s crazy antics continue to fit the misfit character perfectly.
Now onto the negatives which revolve around the film’s story. The telling of an outcast who has to find his inner strength to become the person (Or panda in this case) he was always meant to be is a theme that has followed this series from the first film. The series now finds itself in the awkward position of rehashing this story with each passing film, and though Po is undeniably growing as a character, it’s still a story that has been told before. I can’t really blame Dreamworks. The first “Kung Fu Panda” was a rousing success, and the age old philosophy in Hollywood to not fix what is not broken rings true here. However, Dreamworks has to be careful if they plan on making more of these films to not milk the cow dry.
‘Kung Fu Panda 3” is a solid film that won’t engage adults the same way say Pixar’s acclaimed films do, but that doesn’t stop this film from being a lot of fun, especially for kids. The story doesn’t break any new ground for the series nor for it’s characters. However, it’s a story well told. One which must be continued to be recycled throughout the history of film to inspire younger audiences to discover their true selves and embrace it in achieving their dreams. Lets just hope Dreamworks stops recycling those themes with this franchise and moves onto different dramatic territory for this series and its characters.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Voice cast and the animation is just as good as ever
THE BAD – Underwhelming antagonist with a plot/theme that is getting a tad repetitious with each passing film in the series