Continuing his “legendary adventures of awesomeness”, Po must face two hugely epic, but different threats: one supernatural and the other a little closer to his home.
Director: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh
Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Kate Hudson, Wayne Knight
Rated: PG (martial arts action and some mild rude humor)
Kung Fu Panda 3
By Cole Schneider
The Kung Fu Panda franchise must be among the most surprising of all recent critical and popular successes. These films have brought great box office returns to Dreamworks animation studios while breaking the 80% threshold on Rotten Tomatoes. That is a rare and impressive accomplishment!
The first introduction to the panda, Po, gave us humor and style in spades. While it never gave us much of anything substantive in its narrative or characters, it did make for an entertaining trip to a typically ignored culture. That film’s Buddhist core may have never been fully fleshed out, but it wasn’t trying to. It was a surface-level introduction to a foreign (even though these films make loads of money in Asia, their home is America) culture and ideas, and it was able to do so in a mocking manner without being disrespectful—another rare and impressive accomplishment.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” continues the juvenile humor and Eastern visual patterns of the original, but its religious heart morphs to Confucianism. Eastern myth and religion is fertile and unexplored ground for kids movies. Here, the concept of Qi (energy or life force; roughly the same as its western counterpart, the Greek pneuma, or its iconic film equivalent, The Force) takes not only a thematic center, but a narrative one as well. That’s cool! What isn’t cool is its lack of a dramatic arc, its lack of actual pathos while insisting it’s heartfelt, its use of Eastern ignorance as an excuse for wild deus ex machina, and its diminishing returns on what is essentially the same joke over and over for 3 films. Kids could do worse; kids could do better.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Kung Fu Panda 3
By Matt Greene
The third film in Dreamworks enduring martial-arts-comedy franchise has managed the near impossibility of being simultaneously too predictable and too nonsensical. As a fan of the first two films, I often found myself defending them against detractors who claimed they were too prone to the narrative downfall of the “deus-ex-machina” (an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation). With Panda 3, that fight has become too much to wage. With story beats that are beyond lazy, we’ve abandoned the majestic fighting of the first 2, leaving us with nothing but childish humor and tons of unearned yet expected emotions.
The story finds Po (played by the ever-perfect-for-the-role Black) trying to best a particularly tough new baddie, all the while discovering that his birth-dad is still alive and residing within a hidden community full of pandas. The new villain has a completely inexplicable backstory, but is mostly cool enough to make up for it, and the village of bears is plenty cute and funny. It even provides a respectable example of non-traditional parenting for modern times. Unfortunately, it’s all surrounded by the tired “be yourself” morality that kid’s films can’t seem to get away from.
Sure, the animation is as beautiful as ever, the score is cool, and there are a handful of genuine belly laughs. Unfortunately, the overpowering sense of laziness in the script drags down this otherwise successful family outing, a product of trying to squeeze too many stories from one small beginning. Kung Fu Panda 3 is missing the unique spirit of comedic fun and adventure that bolstered the previous two films to the top of the Dreamworks animation stable.
2.5 out of 5 Stars