“Kung Fu Panda 3” Is The “Return Of The Jedi” Of The “Panda” Series.

By Scott Kurland

Film: Kung Fu Panda 3
Starring: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Dustin Hoffman, and Jackie Chan
Rated: PG
Directors: Jennifer Yuh and Alessandro Carloni

     I am baffled by Dreamworks Animation. Sometimes they make terrible animated films like “Home” and “Over The Hedge,” films that go for the cheap laughs. Other times they knock it out of the park with “How To Train Your Dragon” and”Rise Of The Guardians.” Of all the films they’ve made though, my favorite has got to be the “Kung Fu Panda” series.

     Both "Kung Fu Panda" and "Kung Fu Panda 2" contained really positive messages for children; messages such as the importance of being yourself and not judging a book by its cover. This week’s film is “Kung Fu Panda 3”, the latest addition to the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise. Let’s see if it’s a worthy follow up to its predecessors, shall we?

     “Kung Fu Panda 3” continues the adventures of Po (Jack Black) as he unlocks even more secrets about his powers as “The Dragon Warrior”. All his training comes to a halt however when Po’s biological father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) finally appears in the Valley of Peace. Po decides in order to move forward he must go back to his roots both as a son and a panda. At the same time, an evil Chi master named Kai (J.K. Simmons) threatens everyone’s way of life when he arises from the spirit world. Now, Po must teach his fellow pandas how to harness their own Chi. Will Po be able to connect with his new family and face Kai? Or has the “Dragon Warrior” finally met his match?

I stick by my headline. “Kung Fu Panda 3” is the equivalent of “Return of the Jedi” in regards to this trilogy. “Kung Fu Panda 2” is the best, and is in the vein of “The Empire Strikes Back” with the darker story line. While the first “Kung Fu Panda” is like “A New Hope” and sets the stage for the series,  "Kung Fu Panda 3” has a bunch of cuddly bears fighting an army just like in “Return of The Jedi”. 

The more I thought about this film, the more confused I became. When I left the theater, I felt as if it surpassed the first film of the series. Days later, I find I can hardly remember any plot details. “Kung Fu Panda 3” deals well with the message of forgiveness and finding yourself. However, this film played it too safe when addressing the issue of family betrayal. Carloni is new to directing a feature, and he’ll learn. Yuh on the other hand made “Kung Fu Panda 2,” and I think she tried to out do herself there. That doesn’t mean this 3rd installment is bad. I really liked this movie and I certainly recommend it, but something is missing and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe, Kai needed more development as a villain, or perhaps Li Shan needed to be rounded out as a father for Po. Whatever the case may be, this is the lesser of the three films.

As usual, we get a great vocal performance from Black, Hoffman, and Jolie. The addition of Cranston made for such a great balance to Black’s energy. Black has this larger-than-life voice that electrifies you with joy. Cranston has that same type of joy to his voice, but in a more fatherly way. Black is like that cool uncle who brings you firecrackers and his voice really makes Po unique, while Cranston is like that cool dad who lets you stay up to watch SNL at a sleepover. Cranston makes another great addition to this already impressive cast.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” is better than most animated films coming out these days. It has a great message of finding yourself and inner peace that kids won’t understand, but parents will love. This is an adorable kids film that is harmless entertainment. It doesn’t settle for cheap fart joke laughs. Instead, it aims for the heart. If you are looking for a film that the whole family will enjoy, see “Kung Fu Panda 3.” I highly recommend it.

scott kurlandComment