Kung Fu Panda 3 (PG) ★★★1/2

Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan star in "Kung Fu Panda 3." Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.
Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Bryan Cranston,
J.K. Simmons, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan star in “Kung Fu Panda 3.” Photo Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

Kung Fu Panda 3 Provides Plenty of Kicks

Three movies…three smash hits. Kung Fu Panda 3 follows its predecessors’ footsteps by, once again, delivering the animated comedy goods. Voiced by its cast of well-known Hollywood heavyweights, this action-adventure flick delights audiences with another fun chapter in the life of our favorite affable, animated, kung fu-fighting panda bear.

Similar to the Shrek and Toy Story franchise, Kung Fu Panda 3 is another example of what studios can do with creative animators, witty writers, excellent voice actors and characters for them to bring to life.

The third movie in this franchise begins with the tortoise kung fu master, Grand Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim, John Wick, 2014), being ambushed in an after-life setting known as the “spirit realm.” His assailant is Kai, a villainous yak voiced by Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, 2014), who defeats the capitulating Oogway, who willingly has his chi taken, but not before Oogway warns Kai that the “dragon warrior” will ultimately halt his plans. The film then cuts to the mortal world where Po, voiced again by Jack Black (Goosebumps, 2015) has become a kung fu teacher although he is not finding it to be easy as his friends, the Furious Five, become injured in the process. Dejected, Po heads home to his adoptive father, where he finds a panda named Li, voiced by Emmy-award winner Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, 2015), who has been seeking out Po.

While bonding with his long lost father, the valley is attacked by Kai and jade statues resembling past kung fu masters that Kai now controls through their chi. While they are able to fend Kai off for the time being, Po and the Furious Five learn through ancient scrolls that Kai was a former ally of Oogway. After Kai begins to steal the pandas’ chi, Oogway defeats and banishes him to the spirit realm as punishment. In order for Po to defeat Kai, he must learn to use chi, which Li promises to teach Po at a secret panda village. Once they arrive, it appears that Li really just wanted to keep Po safe and that the Panda village no longer knows how to use chi. In order to defend themselves, Po must learn this lost art and teach kung fu to a gentle, yet fun loving panda village in preparation for an ultimate showdown with Kai.

The franchise continues to draw in big stars to voice its characters as Bryan Cranston and J.K. Simmons voiced new characters in the story. Both Cranston and Simmons continue to show their acting range as both dramatic and comedic actors of the highest caliber. Jack Black and the other mainstays from the franchise (Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogan, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan) also continue to shine as an ensemble.

The one weak link in this story is that despite being a cartoon, a supernatural villain from the after-life is a departure for this series and it seems like Kai could have just as easily been from a distant land and not have taken away from the plot. Despite being the third movie in the franchise, Kung Fu Panda 3 is nonetheless a fun and engaging journey for all.

The Bottom-Line?  Kung Fu Panda 3 is yet another successful installment in the franchise. It is truly an entertaining movie for the whole family.

Cast:  Jack Black (Po), Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Bryan Cranston (Li), J.K. Simmons (Kai), Dustin Hoffman (Shifu), Seth Rogen (Mantis), David Cross (Crane), Lucy Liu (Viper), Jackie Chan

Credits: Directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson; Written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger

Studio: DreamWorks Animation

Run Time: 94 minutes

Jessica Aymond © January 29, 2016