Kung Fu Panda 3(2016)
- RatedG /GenreAdventure, Animation, Comedy
For all Po the Panda fans, here's the good news: He's back to battle evil again.
Bad news: There's nothing particularly new or inventive in the latest installment to the successful franchise and the story while adequate, is threadbare.
Po (voiced by Jack Black) is the Dragon Warrior, and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) decides to give Po the job to train the other warriors. Expectedly, he botches up the job. Down in the dumps, he gets a visit from his real father, Li (Bryan Cranston).
But the vale is in danger, as the latest villain of the week is a bull named Kai (JK Simmons), who has the ability to turn his enemies into jade-like pieces and use them as 'jombies', or jade zombies, who will fight on his side. He also uses two rectangular blades on chains that remind one of the weapons that the main protagonist uses in the 'God of War' franchise.
To defeat Kai, Po has to depart for the Panda village and find his roots (and probably for Dreamworks to put more figures in the toy department), as well as learn the secrets of chi which will help stop Kai's rampage.
'Kung Fu Panda 3' rides on the success of the predecessors. The animation is stunning, though once again, the 2D portions that explained the backstory were visually more interesting. The fish out of the water scenario is once again trotted out, and it shows sign of wearing out its welcome, particularly when it's once again applied to Po.
Directors Jennifer Yuh and Alessandro Carloni also seem to have run out of tricks for Po, and the film is actually better when he's off screen.
The villain is similarly bland. While there's an interesting backstory about him, Kai just becomes a typical villain who has as much personality as a character in an arcade fighting game.
Some of the best and most original moments are between Po's two dads, and it's great to see James Hong, who plays Mr. Ping, get more dialogue here.
His relationship with Po grounds the franchise, and it's great to see him have a more important role here. The scenes between Ping and Li trying to show Po who's the better dad generate more sparks than the film's many fights.
It doesn't quite make up the film's faults. Far too many jokes go for low-hanging fruit, such as jibes about the appetite of pandas and their rotundness.
Considering how many of the jokes feel recycled, perhaps the franchise should take a look at doing a film based on one of the five instead of continuing to focus on Po. Tiger (Angelina Jolie) has always been the most fleshed out of the other Five, but both Viper and Cricket might give the franchise some new direction.
Undoubtedly, the film is a crowd pleaser and has already done well at both the Chinese and American box-office. It would have been more interesting if things got a bit more subversive, such as the Panda village being less generic and idyll.
It's colourful and gorgeous to look at, but one can't help but feel that this Panda is quickly running out of tricks.