By Nico Beland
Movie Review: A (3 ½ stars)
The Dragon Warrior and the Furious Five are back in the third installment of DreamWorks’ critically and commercially successful Kung Fu Panda trilogy. Much like the previous two films, Kung Fu Panda 3 is gorgeously animated (the lighting, character designs, backgrounds, action sequences, I mean WOW!), has well-developed characters, the same voice actors reprising their characters, filled with Kung Fu action, and a lot of drama (I know a movie, with the title “Kung Fu Panda” cranks up the drama), but it still manages to have plenty of comedy to balance it all.
It’s quite impressive Kung Fu Panda was able to stay fresh for three movies, because usually when the third movie comes around, the series tends to go downhill after that, that’s exactly what happened with DreamWorks’ Shrek movies. But after seeing Kung Fu Panda 2, I couldn’t wait to see what was happening next for the characters, especially since we now know there are more pandas out there (little spoiler from the last movie), and Kung Fu Panda 3 did not disappoint.
The film follows Po (voiced by Jack Black-School of Rock, Be Kind Rewind, Goosebumps) completing his final lesson in mastering the Dragon Warrior power with Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman-Kramer VS Kramer, Tootsie, Rain Man). Shifu informs him that he must transition from student to Kung Fu teacher to fully harness the power of the Dragon Warrior. And knowing Po, he feels he’s not ready to start teaching Kung Fu, when he himself still has some problems with it himself.
But then he soon realizes that there is a new panda in town known as Li Shan (voiced by Bryan Cranston-Godzilla (2014)) who is searching for his long lost son, yeah I think you know where this is going. It turns out Li Shan is Po’s father that protected him from Lord Shen’s wrath that assumedly wiped out all the pandas.
So Li Shan takes Po and his adoptive father, Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong-Wayne’s World 2, Mulan, The Big Bang Theory) to the panda village Po was born in, where he meets his original panda family members as well as some new panda friends and at first it’s quite nice and he learns how to be a true panda, from oversleeping, to stuffing dumplings into his face without chopsticks, and rolling rather than walking. But they soon realize that an evil force is upon them, a power hungry yak who goes by the name of Kai (voiced by J.K. Simmons-Spider-Man trilogy, Juno, Terminator: Genisys) who was banished to the spirit world for 500 years by Grand Master Oogway (voiced by Randall Duk Kim-Anna and the King, The Matrix Reloaded, John Wick) has managed to make his way back to the land of mortals to get revenge on Oogway by destroying everything he cared about by stealing the Chi power from all the great Kung Fu Masters including Po’s friends, Monkey (voiced by Jackie Chan-The Tuxedo, The Medallion, The Karate Kid (2010), Crane (voiced by David Cross-Men in Black, Run Ronnie Run, Pitch Perfect 2), Mantis (voiced by Seth Rogen-You, Me and Dupree, Horton Hears A Who, Monsters VS Aliens), Viper (voiced by Lucy Liu-Charlie’s Angels), even Shifu.
It’s up to Po, Li Shan, Master Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie-Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Beowulf, Salt), and Mr. Ping to unlock the true power of Chi to defeat Kai, teach an entire army of pandas Kung Fu, and save their friends, and also the world.
Overall, Kung Fu Panda 3 is one of those perfect third installments, so rare for the third movie to still stay fresh and it doesn’t rehash the first two films. When Kung Fu Panda 2 ended, this is what I wanted the third movie to be about, Po finally finding his long lost father and family, especially after finding out where he came from in the last film, and it did not disappoint, it delivered exactly what I wanted and even more.
It was both funny and heartwarming at the exact same time seeing Po bond with his dad, even pounding their tummies together is touching, a movie where they can make a scene like that touching and sweet is definitely doing something right. Po, Mr. Ping, and Li Shan all have strong chemistry, obviously it starts off as a dad rivalry between Mr. Ping and Li Shan, but it surprisingly didn’t last as long as I thought it would.
Also the chemistry between Po and Tigress is great, in all three of the films, they’re both very well developed and they opposite each other perfectly, Tigress being the tough one and Po being the soft lovable oaf, yeah it’s a little clichéd but Jack Black and Angelina Jolie’s voices are what really sells it. Sure Tigress is the more aggressive one out of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean she’s an emotionless buzzkill, she and Po talk to each other about how one another is feeling, of course while pounding each others’ faces in, and their training is funny and it shows how they connect as characters, I always love watching these two together.
And of course, the villain is a ton of fun to watch, J.K. Simmons as Kai is both awesome and funny at the same time, the best I can describe him is a mix between the villains, Tai Lung from the first film and Lord Shen from the second film, he’s aggressive and powerful like Tai Lung but he has a sarcastic and sinisterly humorous side like Lord Shen, and his chained green swords are pretty cool as well.
The film offers everything I love about DreamWorks’ animated films, obviously they market themselves to the kids and family audience, but like the How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek movies, this is a movie I think anyone can enjoy, whether you’re a kid, teen, or adult, it makes a perfect movie to see with the entire family. If you’re a fan of the other two Kung Fu Panda movies, you’ll get exactly what you want out of Kung Fu Panda 3, colorful animation, comedy, talented voices, and action, add in an engaging plot and strong character development, it’s a family adventure as big as a Dragon Warrior Sized Dumpling. SKADOOSH Indeed!