Kung Fu Panda 3
Of all of the DreamWorks animated films, it is the Kung Fu Panda films that really impress me the most. Antz back in 1998 was a lot of fun and featured what is arguably the best voice cast ever in an animated feature, but the story felt a little lackluster. The Shrek films are good, but really went off the deep end with the last two installments. The Madagascar films are usually pretty fun and the How to Train Your Dragon films are very “take it or leave it” for me. The Kung Fu Panda films at first looked like a lame attempt to sell toys and give Jack Black another crazy character. The great surprise here though is that the films have so much heart, an impressive voice cast, a phenomenal score, fantastic action choreography, beautiful cinematography, and wit to boot. The first one took me by surprise, the second really took what we liked about the first one and put Po (Jack Black) on a new journey, with Gary Oldman’s Lord Shen providing some truly innovative and gorgeous fight sequences, and this most recent one may be my favorite of all.
The great cast all returns here including Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, Dustin Hoffman, and James Hong. They are joined this time by Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons, and Kate Hudson (in arguably her best role yet). Everyone in the cast really gives it their all, even if some of the Furious Five members are sidelined a bit here. There is nobody else who could have played Po’s dad as effectively as Bryan Cranston did. He gives so much personality and heart to the character that he steals a number of the scenes he’s in. Kate Hudson’s character was actually quite a delight. I do believe it was written for more of a Melissa McCarthy-type, but Hudson really sells it and the character is a lot of fun. An unrecognizable (in terms of voice) J.K. Simmons does fantastic work as the villain, Kai. This series in particular has had a fantastic lineup of villains, all with their own distinct fighting styles as well. We’ve had Tai Lung (Ian McShane), Shen (Gary Oldman), and now Kai (Simmons). Kai in particular is a very intimidating enemy, having taken the chi from other kung fu masters, allowing him to deploy them at his will, not to mention the chain blades he wields around. It’s a great villain with an interesting backstory and Hans Zimmer’s score for Kai is fantastic.
I don’t want to talk too much about this one because, even though it’s a kid’s movie, there are a lot of little surprises that are quite fun. My only real complaint about this film is that Po’s journey here is very similar to his journey in Kung Fu Panda 2…just replace “inner peace” with “chi.” However, that’s a little nitpick when you consider how amazing the fight choreography, cinematography, music, and humor is in the film. I have to say this one felt much shorter than the first two, even though it is the longest. The scenes between Po and both his birth father and adopted father are heartfelt and go a long way to making the film what it is. I could see them ending the series here, as it really wraps up a lot of Po’s story. I really doubt that will happen with how much money these movies make, and I can honestly say I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
Rating: PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes