3rd Panda Flick Fun Filled

Kelly Pien, Editor-in-Chief

Visually stunning and as charming as a baby panda, Kung Fu Panda 3 far surpasses its predecessor and rivals the 2008 original.

Kung Fu Panda 3 continues the story of Po (voiced by Jack Black), a Kung Fu master and noodle-loving panda with a goose for an adoptive father (James Hong). Po must take his Kung Fu mastery to the next level by achieving inner peace (namely, coming to terms with his past and biological father, voiced by Bryan Cranston) and learning how to teach others the martial art.

Along with fellow Kung Fu masters like the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, and Jackie Chan), and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), Po is also tasked with protecting his homeland, the Valley of Peace, and its inhabitants from evil Kung Fu masters.

In this movie, it’s a hulking yak named Kai (J.K. Simmons). Kai sets out to destroy every Kung Fu master and collect their chi, or power. Although this fan of the franchise found Kai’s supernatural powers off-putting initially (Kai is the first Kung Fu Panda villain to have supernatural powers), this decision opens up more design possibilities for animators, and I quickly found myself thinking that beauty of the animated swirling peach blossoms and glowing green paws compensates for the discontinuity. As in the prior 2 films in the series, the Kung Fu Panda 3 animators seem to take inspiration from traditional Chinese brush paintings, and the result is gorgeous.

The storyline is structurally sound and relatively tightly woven, exploring weighty themes of death and self-sacrifice without feeling too overdone. For those who saw the previous movies, this installment fleshes out Po’s back story and allows him to mature. However, it’s also not overly dependent upon its predecessors; the movie will make sense to newcomers.

Probably my only (very minor) criticism with the film’s plot is that the groundwork is laid for a potential romance between 2 pandas but never comes to fruition, which I thought was a lost opportunity for more character development.

Despite this, Kung Fu Panda 3 is charming. The movie skillfully, albeit in the end somewhat repetitively, builds up a serious moment and then immediately undercuts it with some silly, kid-pleasing dialogue that unfailingly garners laughs in the theater every time. Po’s innovative solutions to problems in training and defending himself are also enough to keep viewers from getting bored.

Overall, Kung Fu Panda 3 will delight families, fans of the franchise, and anyone who can’t resist a village full of adorable anthropomorphic baby pandas.