IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 95 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In the Chinese Spirit Realm, Grand Master Oogway fights against the spirit warrior Kai and has his chi stolen, but not before he warns Kai that Po, the Dragon Warrior, will stop him. Kai disregards this and returns to the mortal world. Po isn’t currently having too good a time though. Master Shifu announces his retirement and passes the role of teacher to Po, but finds that teaching kung fu is hard. A chance encounter with another panda who breaks Po’s dumpling-eating record sees Po reunite with his real father, but Kai is trying to take over the land with his jade zombies. Kai can only be defeated by a master of true chi, which was an innate ability of the panda colonies, so Po, Li and Mr. Ping, travel to the secret village where the pandas hide while Shifu and the Furious Five stay behind….
We just don’t have time to review all the films that we see these days on HCF, and I certainly don’t have the time I used to have to review all the animated movies that I see, but I thought I’d throw in a short review of Kung Fu Panda 3, being as I reviewed the second instalment and had a little bit of time. It hasn’t had as good a reception as its two predecessors, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a lighter effort, with hardly any of the darkness and far less of the drama that we saw previously. In my experience, critics tend not to be too fond of the kind of animated film that consists largely of jokes, though I personally love it when a cartoon feature hits my funny bone. More problematic for Kung Fu Panda 3 is that they seem to have skimped on the action, and the finale in particular is a big disappointment, Po overcoming the villain in a far too quick and convenient manner. We don’t even get much of a sense of him developing the new skills that he learns, and I can’t be the only viewer who hoped that the wonderful assortment of weapons in a hall full of armour and arms belonging to past legendary grand masters would eventually be put to good use!
Still, there remains a lot to enjoy. The lovely traditional Chinese watercolour look of the first two films is improved on, resulting in a truly great looking film [though the Spirit World is rather disappointing], some of the humour does work [notably when Mr. Ping is onscreen, James Hong seeming to voice the role with even more relish than usual], there’s just enough emotional content without it changing the overall happy vibe of the film, and the scenes at Pandaland [which seems to be very easy to find considering it’s supposed to be secret] are very cute. The film has the usual worthwhile messages of self-worth, family and love, but is also brave enough to not paint in a bad light such Panda-like activities as getting up late, lazing around, and eating a huge amount. Unfortunately the Furious Five are largely sidelined throughout, and Kai may look like an effective villain but seems to have hardly any motivation for trying to take over the world. I guess it’s just because he wants to, which in a way is almost refreshing. The voice cast seem to be enjoying themselves, and isn’t it great to hear J. K. Simmons in an animated film? While a notch down from the previous two films, Kung Fu Panda 3 is still a thoroughly likeable and warm hearted adventure. It kind of wraps things up nicely really and, rather than carry on with the proposed three further sequels, it might be a good idea if Dreamworks ended it here before quality really begins to go in a serious way.