Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) Movie Review

Kung Fu Panda 3 wraps up a trilogy with fun and whimsy: 3.75/5

Ah, what a feeling when a good trilogy comes to a close. There is a certain disappointment, because there is a chance we will never get to see Po and his friends in another movie. However, the fact must be faced that we have gone through a trilogy of Kung Fu Panda movies, and we have not had a bad or disappointing addition. This is a task more impressive than it seems, since this is a series of movies about a panda that learns martial arts.But, against all odds, the third installment of this animated series is still smart, beautifully made, and often quite funny.

A little hard to believe, isn’t it? Not really. The past two movies of the series have been fun adventures that almost serve as an introduction to martial arts movies. So, yes, I was expecting to enjoy “Kung Fu Panda 3.” And I was not disappointed. This idea of a panda learning martial arts in Ancient China has has been chugging along so well, that it IS hard to tell what has been keeping it afloat through three films.

I think it is Po, the Kung Fu Panda himself, who himself is such a charming and likable presence that the films are hard to resist. Jack Black brings an undeniable enthusiasm to the character that is hard to replicate. He is always so turned on, so energetic. After all, he is the Dragon Warrior, the kung fu master destined to protect China, and he has been a fan of kung fu since he was a boy. It’s almost like if a Star Trek fan became the Captain of the Enterprise.

The other stuff is good too, though.

The story of “Kung Fu Panda 3” is that Kai (an ancient kung fu warrior voiced by J.K. Simmons) has broken out of the spirit realm and has defeated all of the kung fu masters of China, taking their mystical energy, known as chi, and plans to take over the mortal realm, using jade versions of the masters to do his bidding. But, of course, it is written that only a master of chi can best Kai, and with the rest of China beaten, it is up to, you guessed it, Po to defeat Kai and save the world.

Though Po has problems of his own. Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), Po’s old master, is retiring, so he has left it to the panda to train his students, Crane, Monkey, Viper, Mantis, and Tigress (voiced by David Cross, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, and Angelina Jolie, respectively). As you can guess, he isn’t very good at it. Po also has to deal with the stress of being the Dragon Warrior. And to top it all off, he finds his real dad, Li (Bryan Cranston), a playful panda who leads his son to a secret village in the mountains entirely populated with the roly-poly balls of fur.

This may sound a little cluttered, but the movie does a fair job of keeping the film simple, even if it means that some very interesting points are passed aside pretty quickly. None of it is bad, per se, but sometimes they choose to focus too much on one of the stories. Sometimes they go as far as to replace some of the kung fu scenes with lots of slapstick humor. It doesn’t always work as well as the filmmakers think it does.

It can be forgiven, simply because the movie is beautiful. The animation is fluid and full of idea and expression, representing Ancient Chinese culture and art perfectly. The creators did their research. The backgrounds are fantastical and colorful, and the character design is inventive. It is also mesmerizing in sound. Few people could make such a great and triumphant score than Hans Zimmer.

And yes, as many sequels do, “Kung Fu Panda 3” uses many moments and scenes recycled from its predecessors, but it doesn’t feel stale. The movie is actually quite different from the other “Pandas”. This movie decides to be a family story instead a martial arts film. As much as I loved the action scenes, I can’t argue with difference. I hope that that possible future “Kung Fu Panda” movies keep evolving. I would welcome those films with open arms. The Kung Fu Panda can not be stopped by only three films. Based on Po’s energy, I sounds like he could handle ten.

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