Its not often an animated threequel can claim to possibly be the best of the trilogy.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is a Dreamworks animated family/adventure film directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh. It stars (once again) Jack Black as Po, the very huggable Kung Fu Master known as the Dragon Warrior. After Po begins to face the next step of his training in becoming a teacher, the valley is threatened by a mysterious Kung Fu warrior from Oogway’s past at the same time Po makes a big discovery about his past and heritage.
As I usually do for big budget animations, lets get the obvious out of the way first: the animation is gorgeous. Its so lush, imaginative, and fluid enough that it often appears like a water painting sprung to life. The Chinese landscapes and visual influences in are put to excellent use here, making the film both culturally distinct while still being just damn gorgeous.
So now that’s out of the way, how’s the rest of the film? While not quite at the level of the visuals, still really good! While the plot does unfortunately suffer from the usual contrivances and predictable moments that appear to crop up in almost every Dreamworks film, its still a logical progression of the character and possesses enough emotion and heart to be genuinely touching at times. Sure, some things don’t make sense, but the film gets you invested enough in the characters and the mystical side of this world that it barely matters. The movie makes it easy to just sit back and enjoy the ride. And the humour.
Kung Fu Panda 3 throws an abundance of jokes at the screen, many of which land but sadly not all. There is a heavy reliance on slapstick which, while is done very well, does wear very thin if you’re not a fan of physical humour. There’s also a multitude of distinct comic relief characters are written and executed brilliantly. They’re all distinct, funny, and never take enough screen time to get annoying. So while the over-reliance on slapstick does wear thin, this is still a very funny film that’s likely to get most demographics laughing.
The solid character work from the previous two films carry over to this third instalment also. Jack Black’s Po captures the manic energy and humour needed for the larger-than-life character, Dustin Hoffman’s Shifu is just as sardonic, Jolie’s Tigress is still badass and the list goes on. Of the two new players, they’re not quite on the same level but are still enjoyable enough. Bryan Cranston as Po’s long-lost Dad matches off with Jack Black surprisingly well, allowing him to get the light-hearted side of his character while still hitting the emotional beats when needed. JK Simmons’ character, the villainous Kai, is a bit of a let-down however. While Simmons puts all the right menace and humour into his delivery, the character itself is extremely under-written. He was a friend of Oogway, the ancient Turtle, for a while and then turned bad because… reasons? His motivations are never really explained much more beyond ‘power-hungry’ which is a shame because the film misses an opportunity to have an emotionally-resonate villain like Kung Fu Panda 2. Its not enough to derail the movie, but still a criticism to keep in mind.
If you loved the humour, characters and visuals of the last two Panda films, you’ll love it all in this one too. There’s enough of a visual feast to entertain parents, enough pratfalls to keep the kids laughing, and enough emotion in the fairly-standard plot to make an impression after you leave the theatre. Don’t go in expecting another Zootopia and you have a great way to spend 95 minutes of your time.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended
Kids: Highly Recommended