Kung Fu Panda 3 Review: Third is the one with the treasure chest

Chad White
Loves: The Kung Fu Panda series
Likes: When Dreamworks is on top of its game
Dislikes: Fast movies that don’t let you live in the world
Hates: The Dreamworks movie Home. Ugh.

It’s like looking in a fat mirror!

When Dreamworks does a good job, it really stands out. Kung Fu Panda 3, the third entry in the martial arts based animal series, kicks a lot of butt and makes some great jokes along the way. After Shrek, it could’ve been easy for the company – that’s already faced bankruptcy – to fall into a samey territory. But its proved itself powerful with How to Train Your Dragon, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda along with the successful universes built around each property. While the HTTYD world may be Norse and dense, KFP is easily accessible and wildly entertaining.

Jack Black’s Po is back to save his town alongside Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Crane (David Cross), Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). This time, the Furious Five and Po (please find a name for the group; it’s been eight years) must fight against Grand Master Oogway’s old friend, Kai (J.K. Simmons). Along the journey, Po meets his real father, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), a panda that matches both girth and wits with his son. That’s not to say that the new addition of Po’s dad adds any sort of unneeded tension; Li Shan is just as loveable as his son and probably just as well meaning. Po’s adoptive father, Mr. Ping (James Hong) gets more development this time around as he continually fights for his son’s affection.

Kung Fu Panda 3 is an improvement to the series but that’s not saying much. Each movie builds on the universe accordingly, adding mythology over jokes as post-Shrek Dreamworks has learned. Po is smarter here and his team has gotten use to him being the leader and his various “skills.” Executive Producer Guillermo Del Toro and co-directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carlon take what could’ve been a bloated production and make an enjoyable kick butt movie. The action is fast paced, servicing the story accordingly. Fight scenes are choreographed down to the sounds each hit will make. Both feet and fists fly with enough realness to qualify this as a bonafide kung fu flick.

But the speed of Kung Fu Panda 3 can be a detriment though. As with Madagascar 3, this movie seems to gloss over story details, a move especially seen taking into account the amount of montages. Sure, Kung Fu Panda and its sequels are kids movies, but one or two sentences here and there won’t confuse the little ones. To add to that, with the already big roster of main characters, it seems as though the writers had a tough time juggling the seven stars. Jackie Chan has a more pronounced role but Lucy Liu is reduced to his status in the two previous movies.

Should you watch Kung FU Panda 3?

No matter if this is your first go round with the series or you’ve been with it since the beginning, Kung Fu Panda 3 should entertain anyone age 2 to 200. It’s fun, fast and freaking awesome.

Notes

  • As I wrote above, Jackie Chan has a bigger role. Don’t quote me on the numbers but he had twice the number of lines here than he did in the previous two movies COMBINED. Maybe it’s due to Monkey’s role in the TV show as Po’s best friend.
  • Speaking of the TV show, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon are the only two series in Dreamworks’ catalog that consider the TV shows canon. HTTYD shows take place in the off years and you get to see the kids grow and change from the first movie to the second. Madagascar, on the other hand, has two shows that aren’t considered continuity. They probably couldn’t explain how the penguins made it back to New York for the Nickelodeon show Penguins of Madagascar but I’d find a way.
  • Lucy Liu was missed here. I only noticed because I was counting Chan’s lines (thanks CinemaSins). And David Cross’ Crane just stopped talking after a certain scene.
  • Crane and Mantis have a mini adventure that proves to be fruitless and funny all at the same time. The writers loved Seth Rogen this time around. He’s the funniest out of the Five.
  • That’s the Jolie-Pitt clan as the voices of the younger panda bears. They’ll never be that cute again.
  • Kate Hudson’s Mei Mei is so funny. Every single line made me giggle with pleasure.