KUNG FU PANDA 3
*** (out of 5)
January 29, 2016
Jack Black as PO
Bryan Cranston as LI
Dustin Hoffman as SHIFU
Angelina Jolie as TIGRESS
J.K. Simmons as KAI
Jackie Chan as MONKEY
Seth Rogen as MANTIS
Lucy Liu as VIPER
David Cross as CRANE
Kate Hudson as MEI MEI
James Hong as MR. PING
Directed by: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’m not sure how “Kung Fu Panda 3” snuck up on me, but it did. I knew it was coming from the general reports and trailer releases, but it seemed to come out of nowhere, striking in the middle of January rather than in the summer (as the other “Kung Fu Panda” movies had). Normally, that January release date would be a warning sign, but at least this year, it seems that Hollywood is experimenting with releasing bigger movies normally reserved for the summer audience in otherwise dead zones. (See the upcoming “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” for a great example of this.)
Still, it has been five years since the release of “Kung Fu Panda 2,” which was almost twice that of the time between the first two movies. It’s unusual for a studio to let a successful franchise like this languish for so long without a sequel. Going into the movie, I was just hoping it was better than the weekly cartoon “Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness” that trickled onto television a couple years ago.
This time around, Po (Jack Black) is helping the Furious Five protect his village while he helps his adoptive father Mr. Ping (James Hong) run his noodle shop. However, one day, another panda named Li (Bryan Cranston) shows up, looking for his son. This reunites Po with his long, lost Panda village.
Meanwhile, the evil kung fu master Kai (J.K. Simmons) has found a way to return from the underworld and capture the greatest warriors of the land – including the Furious Five – in jade stone and make them do his bidding. Po must find a way to get the other pandas to help him defeat this warrior before he lays waste to the land.
Like any entertaining kung fu movie, “Kung Fu Panda 3” continues the tradition of bringing a newer and even more dangerous evil master to threaten a village. In this sense, I can forgive the slightly recycled plot. It also helps the film that you have the entire voice cast back for an encore – which is something that can be a huge warning flag if that infrastructure to the film crumbles.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” takes the audience to new locations, namely the underworld as well as the panda village. This provides an opportunity to showcase the brilliant animation from the DreamWorks team. I wasn’t wowed the way I was with either “Kung Fu Panda” or “Kung Fu Panda 2,” but it is possible this is because CGI animation has become so advanced that it’s not remarkable any more. (For comparison, consider how much more you were wowed when you saw the original “Jurassic Park” than you were when you saw last summer’s “Jurassic World.”)
There are some wasted moments in the film, particularly Kate Hudson’s role as Mei Mei, which seems edited into oblivion in this film, though if that’s the case it is likely because it never quite clicked beyond a single scene or was simply distracting to the rest of the film.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” may be the least of the three films, but it’s still good family entertainment. However, it doesn’t necessarily leave you craving more like the other two did.