Kung Fu Panda 3

Review by Joel Philpott

Directed by

Alessandro Carloni Jennifer Yuh

Starring

Bryan Cranston Dustin Hoffman Jack Black

Anticipation.

Big stars giving voice to a martial arts animal crew fighting through Shaolin.

Enjoyment.

Non-stop kung fu fighting action, animated with precision and grace.

In Retrospect.

Decent, generic fun for all the family.

Another jolly and energetic outing for Jack Black’s high-kicking, dumpling-noshing endangered species.

Bryan Cranston was taking long, steamy baths in Trumbo, but now he’s breaking dumpling-eating records all across ancient China in this family threequel. He joins a heavyweight voice cast which includes Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen and Angelina Jolie, all lending their voices to various cute but deadly animals. Cranston is Li, the long-lost father to Shaolin dragon warrior Po (Black), and like his son, he is a light hearted, clumsy panda with a xiaolongbao obsession. This time, Po and his martial arts crew, the Furious Five, are met with a new threat from the spiritual underworld, Kai (JK Simmons).

Upon discovering his roots and the nature of his panda homeland, Po realises he must deal with the impending threat from master killer Kai, a task which takes over from initial panda-related hilarity. Po must train his kind to connect with their inner “chi”, which in this case involves honing skills like rolling down hills and backbreaking bear hugs. The plot borrows heavily from classic Chinese Kung fu cinema, referencing endless action sequences while also showcasing traditional martial arts techniques. The film also reflects the burgeoning success of Oriental Dreamworks, Dreamworks’ first Asian outpost which opened in 2004 to coincide with the first Kung Fu Panda movie. They have been in control of the franchise since its inception and have ensured a certain cultural authenticity.

Like its predecessors, Kung Fu Panda 3 looks great. High-octane fight scenes are characterised with smooth and delicate movements from the furry animals. This adds energy to the film, while the still moments are filled with discussions on having faith in your abilities, working hard to improve them and learning to be yourself. The difficult situation that Li’s arrival into Po’s life creates for his adopted father, Mr Ping, is explored as he joins Po and Li’s journey to the secret panda region. Prior to Li’s sudden appearance, Po is thought to be the last panda in the animal kingdom. This reflects an underlying theme of ecological destruction, and the writing is of a higher standard than expected, adding a certain legitimacy.

Yet, there is little evidence of any groundbreaking changes being made to the franchise’s tried-and-tested formula. It’s as good as the previous two films, and a nice entry-level kung fu film for the knee-highs.

Published 11 Mar 2016

Anticipation.

Big stars giving voice to a martial arts animal crew fighting through Shaolin.

Enjoyment.

Non-stop kung fu fighting action, animated with precision and grace.

In Retrospect.

Decent, generic fun for all the family.

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