March 9, 2016
Following where "Kung Fu Panda 2" left off, this third and final episode of this action-comedy franchise has Po finally meeting his long-lost biological father Li Shan. He gets brought back to the secret Panda mountain hideout to discover his true nature. Meanwhile, an evil spirit warrior Kai steals the chi of several other spirit warriors (including that of Master Oogway himself) to return and conquer the mortal world. Can Po and his friends discover their "chi" in time to defeat Kai?
The first two Kung Fu Panda films were both animated action-comedy gems which had delightfully entertained us. Being the third installment, we expected and we received more of the same kind of elegant explosive action and rapidfire wholesome comedy. The best fight scene comes at the very beginning between Master Oogway and Kai in the spirit world. We get the same beautifully-conceptualized historical flashback scenes rendered in watercolor and mixed media. Most importantly, we get to learn some vital positive messages about family, friendship, virtue and life for kids of all ages.
I must say though that after the very intense and mature "Kung Fu Panda 2", "Kung Fu Panda 3", while still excellent, paled just a bit because of its relatively thin and shallow basic story. The climactic battle was too played for too much cute and comedy than I would have liked. That big fight was very skewed in terms of fight skills, yet it still went the predictable way. That whole sequence about Po being with his fellow pandas was a treasure trove of adorable black and white fur. However, those scenes (with them chomping down dumplings and rolling down hills) were more endearing foolishness than kung fu.
Jack Black of course was always on point in his voice work as Po. It was all his show from beginning to end and he was energetically engaging the whole time. Dustin Hoffman was really cute as Shifu and his self-doubt and insecurities. Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan were still there as the voices of the Furious Five, but we barely hear anything substantial or distinct from them. Esteemed character actors Bryan Cranston and J.K. Simmons provide the voices for Li Shan and Kai respectively, further lending additional prestige to the star-studded cast.
"Kung Fu Panda 3" still strikes that perfect balance of depth and froth that made this animated franchise beloved by viewers of all ages. While I personally thought the kiddie aspects predominated this one, as a whole, this film was really entertaining and enjoyable to watch as ever. (PS: Those little baby pandas are simply too lovable to resist.) 8/10.