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Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 3

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Since 2008 some of Dreamworks Animation’s finest films have been it’s Kung Fu Panda series. Having large worlds, colorful characters, fine stories and some of the best drama and conflict I’ve ever seen in an animated film, the series managed to raise the bar higher and higher. But can it still keep that track going with it’s third installment or will rot finally set in with it?


The story for Kung Fu Panda 3 is good yet at the same time feels like a step down from it’s predecessor. The story follows Po as he learns that his biological father is still alive and is taken to a secret panda village to see the rest of his extended family. A majority of the film is Po learning what it is truly like being a panda and while it offers plentiful moments of well made humor I couldn’t shake the feeling that it felt lacking from the previous film’s story, perhaps because the last film had a darker tone and this one is more lighthearted. I found the strongest aspect of this part of the story was Po’s adoptive father Mr. Ping being in conflict with Po’s biological father Li. It made for some good character development as well as some of the more endearing parts of the film as both learnt o accept one another and take on the duel job of being Po’s father. However, once Po learns that a powerful villain named Kai is after him and the rest of the Panda village he must try his best to teach them how to defend themselves and I felt that the pacing and energy of the film really picked up here as it quickly led into a very energetic and well made battle that, as usual, ends the film on a very entertaining note.


The characters for Kung Fu Panda 3 are pretty good but can be lacking


Po is still a very likeable character being relatable and humorous through and through. However, I do have a problem with his character as it seems every time he finds himself having to learn something new and not knowing if he can do it or if he even is the chosen one and on and on with the same exact conflict he had in the very first movie. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a character grow so much throughout a series while at the same time being stuck having to figure out the same problem over and over again.


Li, Po’s father, is quite likeable. Though used mainly for comic relief Li does have a few very good moments of drama with Po through his caring of his son and crippling fear that he will lose him again. It’s moments like these that turned him from being just a funny character into an engaging character.


One aspect of these films that I absolutely adore are it’s villains. The Kung Fu Panda films have excellent villains, one’s with depth and sympathy, villains who are evil not because they chose to be but have been dealt such a bad card or were betrayed by someone they cared about so badly that they snapped. In these films the world isn’t black and white, good and evil it’s more complicated then that. The world is gray and that’s what these films teach and it’s these complex villains that make the films so grand. With that said Kai isn’t that interesting of a villain. Sure he’s a huge threat and does manage to mix humor and menace perfectly but he lacks that sympathy and complexity that the previous two villains had. The filmmakers try to give him a sympathetic back story and it could have worked but they make it so evident that what Kai does is evil for evil’s sake. No true betrayal, no bad hand dealt, just simple hunger for power.


The remaining characters are a problem that these films have had since day one. So much focus is put on Po that the secondary characters aren’t given a moment to develop or grow. Even characters who have been here since the start don’t do anything and still very little is known about them. It’s great to develop your main character so well but development needs to be given to the secondary characters as well so we have more characters we can actually care about.


Acting for Kung Fu Panda 3 is well done


Jack Black does a fine job as Po. Once more he breathes life into the character by being energetic and humorously juvenile while at the same time hitting his more serious notes perfectly.


Bryan Cranston does well as Li, having good fatherly chemistry with Black and each working off one another very well.


J.K. Simmons does a pretty good job as Kai. Simmons manages to be quite menacing but like his character manages to blend humor into  his more intimidating performance. Still, just like his character, his performance seems like a step down from Ian McShane and Gary Oldman as he lacks a certain sadistic finesse and madness that each brought to the table.


The always excellent James Hong does a splendid job as Mr. Ping. As always Hong is infectious with his humorous performance and remains one of the most lovable and memorable parts of the movie.


Just the like the secondary characters the remaining cast has very little to do, either only having a few scant lines of dialogue like Kate Hudson and Angelina Jolie or only being allowed to grunt and yell like the rest of the cast. It’s always been an annoying aspect of these films that they have so many good actors and actresses but don’t even use them for anything other then their star power which always felt like it should have been a wast of time for them.


The animation for Kung Fu Panda 3 is beautiful


The animation for Kung Fu Panda 3 has clearly grown better with each film. The world is well crafted and colorful, the character designs are varied and creative, the effects of the fur is well done and believable and even moments of destruction are done with such grace that it truly is a marvellous sight to behold.


Final Thoughts: While not as engaging as it’s predecessors Kung Fu Panda 3 is still an entertaining and enjoyable film. There are aspects of the story that are good and it has well made humor throughout, the main characters are likeable and have good moments of drama, the set pieces are past paced and exciting, the acting is good and the animation is gorgeous. This one is a treat that the whole family can enjoy on a comfortable Saturday afternoon, warts and all.


Verdict: 3.5/5

About the Author

Good day to you, my name is Jonathan Gonzalez. For years I've loved movies and have been reviewing them for years, ever since I first saw Roger Ebert on Ebert and Roeper during my freshman year of high school for the first time. I am a graduate of Mercy College with a Bachelor's in Journalism and I have Asperger's Syndrome, something I am truly proud of.

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