When a film franchise comes out with a third installment, one gets a sense that that franchise knows what they’re doing and that they are definitely in the business of making money, not high art. Since 2008, the Kung Fu Panda films have repackaged Shrek in a tasty Chinese coating and passed it off as original animated entertainment and DreamWorks Animation actually did get it right. Jack Black serves as voice actor superstar, accompanied by a who’s who of modern day supportive acting talent. Kung Fu Panda 3 continues to follow the adventures of spiritually-misguided Po, a panda who, through the power of kung fu, teamwork, and friendship sees deeper and realizes his true potential. This is the third film, so expect strong similarities between this installment and the previous two however that’s not saying this is a mediocre film because it really is rather fun and lively, not to mention funny and brimming with strong technical achievements.
In this installment, Po (Black), now a seasoned kung fu warrior along with his fellow Masters, is a celebrated hero in his village and quite loved by all those who reside there. His perfect little existence, however, is disrupted by a few factors, the first being Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), who decides to retire and pass along his teacher status to Po. This challenging shift is compounded when Po’s biological father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) shows up and poses a rather complicated scenario and last not least, a powerful spiritual villain, Kai (J.K. Simmons) shows up in his mission to collect the Chi of all the Masters he defeats. Po then must assemble his fellow panda brethren in a serene dumpling-loving village, teach them to fight and work together to defeat Kai at all costs.
In the past two decades, animated films have evolved into an entertainment entity that continually walks the fine line between goofy children’s fare and mature, appropriate parent humor. Kung Fu Panda 3 is yet another example of this line-walking. It is a smart, funny, action-packed thrill ride that is really well-made and clever to boot. This is enhanced by computer animation that is bright, dazzling, and utterly gorgeous and with a 3D presentation, this animation only pops even more and will wow audiences during the film’s entire 95 minute runtime.
The screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger is also a work of art, with joke after joke and visual gag hitting almost every mark. This dialogue, of course, is made all the better by a colorful voice cast, led by Mr. Jack Black. In addition to J.K. Simmons, Bryan Cranston, and Dustin Hoffman, there is Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, and Kate Hudson and they all add their own cute little vocal touches.
With all the visual beauty and craziness filling the screen, an equally vibrant musical score is also strongly present. Academy Award-winning maestro Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, the Madagascar franchise, etc.) has lent his musical genius to the proceedings and it is a score that continues to present the film in a way that words cannot manage. Kung Fu Panda 3 is an animated film that continues to amaze and draw audiences in with a good story and striking visuals. The humor is fresh and the music propels the story. This is one 3D computer-animated film that you will not just want to take the little ones to, but yourself as well since it does not fail to entertain audiences of all ages.