Friday, January 29, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

Building on the epilogue of Kung Fu Panda 2, the latest sequel introduces Po (Jack Black) to his father Li (Bryan Cranston) and an entire tribe of Pandas hidden away in a secret valley deep in the mountains. Along the way Po will also struggle with passing on his knowledge of Kung Fu in the role of teacher, first to the Furious Five and later to his Panda students, when an old threat returns and begins stealing the chi of Kung Fu masters across China.

While not as good as the first film, Kung Fu Panda 3 stands up pretty well against Kung Fu Panda 2 - even if it ignores the most intriguing subplot of the first sequel involving Po's evolving relationship with Tigress (Angelina Jolie). J.K. Simmons proves to be a good choice for the film's villain Kai: Oogway's (Randall Duk Kim) one-time friend who escapes the spirit realm in his search of ultimate power.

And the film introduces us to an entire village of thinly drawn but (mostly) entertaining Panda characters while still finding time to deal with Mr. Ping's (James Hong) jealousy and insecurity at Po exploring a relationship with his "real" father.

The only part of the film that didn't work for me can be summed up in two words: Mei Mei. Voiced by Kate Hudson, the female Panda is the most annoying character in film since Jar-Jar Binks. The only thing which saves her from ruining the film is the fact that she plays a relatively small role in the overall plot (although large enough to take far too much time from Tigress and the Furious Five who get far less screentime this time around than in either of the previous two movies).

Following the same formula of the first two films with Po continuing to learn about himself and Kung Fu while growing as a "person," Kung Fu Panda 3 offers up a legitimate threat in Kai and new challenges for the Dragon Warrior. And, even if it does scrub the Po/Tigress relationship angle from the previous film, I'm glad to see the sequel continue to explore the extended family aspect of the series with such humanity. It's a fitting sequel to a series that continues to entertain... except for Mei Mei. She's pretty much the worst thing ever.

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