Jack Black returns as the voice or Po, the proclaimed dragon master or Kung Fu and star of the “Kung Fu Panda” series, which can now safely be called a trilogy. Looking back at the first movie that premiered way back in 2008, I thought it was going to be terrible, but was very surprised with just how good it was. Then a sequel came out in 2011, which also looked silly and passive, but turned out to be a really great sequel in its own right. You’d think that I’d have learned my lesson by now because once again I thought that “Kung Fu Panda 3” was going to be a lazy, uninspired sequel meant to cash in once more on the success of its predecessors. Well, surprise, surprise! This was another excellent sequel that continued the story further, combined fast comedy with classic martial art philosophy and ended this series on a proper high note.
On this adventure, Po is reunited with his father and taken back to a secret village where the last of the pandas live. There he learns of his origins of his heritage and masters the art of “Chi”, in return he educates the pandas to better themselves and move forward from just being lazy bears in a safe haven. On the other side of the valley is the emergence of a monstrous new villain that just escaped from the spirit world and aims to steal the “Chi” from all Kung Fun masters. A good set up, but I was pleasantly surprised with just well everything was presented. The comedy was funny and fast enough without overstaying its welcome. The pacing was also very good, and knew just when to be subtle or action packed. Best of all, the moral substance was meaningful without coming off as preachy. I’ve been around the block with films that go on and on about the supposed message, where as this film can just some things up in one short sentence ... “The more you take, the less you have.” That’s it, that’s all it need to say, and it’s just one example. For a silly animated children’s comedy, this film’s not without some really good material for both kids and adults to hear.
The animation is beautiful, incredibly detailed, wonderfully designed, and very colorful. Despite being a CGI animated film, it clearly has lots of respect for traditional hand drawn animation, which is also incorporated into the film with great style. If I was to pick at anything, I would have liked to see more of the side characters, who are functional and present, but they seem to be over shadowed more often than not. The villain was also very good, and found that proper balance between being both scary and funny all at once. I know I’ve been praising this film up and down, but I also don’t think it’s one of the greatest animated movies ever made. Like its two predecessors, it’s a solid film that proved to be better than it really even needed to be, and the effort should not go unappreciated. Now that I think about it, this trilogy is kind of a perfect package. The first film was all about training to be a hero, the second was about facing your past before you can move forward with a future, and the third is about teaching the next generation what you’ve learned and discovering your place in life. So very naturally, everything has come full circle, and I think this is the right place to end the series. It’s been fun, funny and is one of DreamWorks best offerings.
I give “Kung Fu Panda 3” 4 stars out of 5.