In the Kung Fu Panda animated franchise, the central protagonist Po, voiced by Jack Black, is always associated with the yin and yang symbol. Perhaps because his character, a panda is black and white like the colors of the yin and yang symbol, perhaps because his character is a contradiction of himself, a kung fu prodigy with a silly personality, but after leaving the theater from a screening of Kung Fu Panda 3, the reason why he is associated with the yin yang symbol is finally revealed as Po’s journey as the Dragon Warrior comes full circle. Sorry but I won’t spoil that for you.
The first installment of the Kung Fu Panda series introduced Po as the bumbling student, the second showcased him as a master of the art and style of Kung Fu, in Kung Fu Panda 3, it’s Po’s time to teach especially since Master Oogway’s adversary Kai, voiced by J.K. Simmons, has returned from the spirit realm on a rampage to collect the chi, life energy, of all the kung fu masters in China, destroy Oogway’s legacy and conquer all he can see.
It’s up to Po to reunite and connect with his long-lost father Li, voiced by Bryan Cranston, and his clan of pandas hidden in the mountains and teach them the ways of the warrior, while at the same time Po must learn what it means to be a panda and discover the secrets of mastering chi.
Again, the final chapter of the Kung Fu Panda series brings Po’s journey to a close and while the movie itself appeases to its target audience, children and fans of the DreamWorks animated franchise, it’s difficult to find anything distinguishable about the film outside of the usual dazzling animation.
The film begins with Po being as lousy a teacher as he was a student in the first movie then Li arrives after discovering that his son was alive, hence picking up from the conclusion of Kung Fu Panda 2, but I felt as though the plot from writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger wasn’t as fleshed out as I thought it would be; what I’m trying to say is that I felt as though as much as Po has grown since the first film, he hasn’t changed where it counts. Maybe that’s a good thing but I felt indifferent.
I felt that Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh did a nice job directing this movie and ultimately, this is the movie that ties everything together in a cute little bow, but I wasn’t as impressed with this Kung Fu Panda as much as I was with the previous two. Probably because there were elements that I feel weren’t as fleshed out as I was expecting, particularly when it comes to certain characters such as Kai and Mei Mei, voiced by Kate Hudson; originally the roles of Kai and Mei Mei belonged to Mads Mikkelsen and Rebel Wilson, but both actors had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts and thus their parts had to shift to accommodate to the story which fostered an inorganic feeling for me, if you can understand what I’m saying.
What’s more is that since Po is integral to the central plot of the film, I felt his character is hindered by a disservice; I thought it would have been more beneficial if the story could benefit from Po’s struggle to balance his purpose as the Dragon Warrior with his quest to rediscover his panda heritage. Instead that takes a backseat to the tension between Mr. Hong and Ling vying for their son’s affection, while playing on the “two dads” idea. I felt that element of the story was wasteful.
Black, Cranston, Simmons as well as Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Lucy Liu, James Wong, Randall Duk Kim were all well-suited to their roles. You couldn’t ask for more from them if you tried.
Essentially, Kung Fu Panda 3 is a feel-good family film featuring dazzling animation. It does its utmost to skate by on the beautiful and standard animation level of quality DreamWorks has achieved over the years but ironically, it feels like this film, standing on its own, is out of balance.
Kung Fu Panda 3 does a fine job tying the entire series together for its audience to bid Po, the Furious Five and Master Shifu one last goodbye, or in this case a “skiddoosh,” but its value is ultimately resigned to that of a decent babysitter flick; the kids will have a great time with it, but the parents and the adult fans of the franchise will be left wanting more.