The student becomes the master at giving the audience…a fantastic performance.
I am a skeptic where sequels are involved. The only time I’ve felt there has been any compounding success in a movie series is with the Toy Story franchise: the second movie improved on the first, and the third improved on number two (with the first one being impressive to begin with).
But before we get into the nitty gritty of what I think, let me give you a rundown of what the third movie in the Kung Fu Panda trilogy is all about: heroes Po (voiced by Jack Black) and the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross) spend most of their days running around The Valley and posing or giving the locals high-fives. That all starts to change when Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) decides to make Po an instructor at the temple.
Things are shaken up even further when Po’s real father, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) comes back to find him. Circumstances have Po, Li Shan and Po’s adopted father, Mr. Ping (James Hong) head for the hills to a secret panda sanctuary, and Po is suddenly put into a position where he has to train a village full of pandas to become kung fu pros – just like Po.
Good news for all you kung fu panda lovers – this is actually a great movie! (Well, in my opinion, at least.) I’d even go as far as saying this entry in the series is the best one. It’s funny, heartwarming, and a sort of silly that both kids and adults will like.
What surprised me was how much people at the screening liked Li Shan the most. After talking to a handful of kids (and some adults) at the screening, Li Shan was almost outpacing Po as their favourite character in this movie. I was a little disappointed in panda Mei Mei, voiced by Kate Hudson, who, to me, wasn’t much more than what is teased in the trailer.
The only bothersome thing in the movie for me involved the music that plays when Kai (J.K. Simmons) shows up. The first time it was cool, the second time, it was a standard cue – and then the multiple times after that were just irritating. Kai’s music is used ad nauseam to let you know he’s there – and we get it, he’s there. I would have liked more variety for Kai’s musical cues. Overall, Kai is no complicated villain, but I think he’s the best one I’ve seen in the series to date.
While I think this film is a great way to wrap up the series, Dreamworks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg previously said the franchise could see another three films, bringing the total to six. However, in an interview with Collider, director Jennifer Yuh Nelson did say the team is more focused on getting it right. If this does turn into a six-movie series, then here’s hoping that it doesn’t become plagued by a lack of ideas or anything fresh – you know, the same thing Lionsgate did to the Saw series. The good news is Katzenberg said the plans have been mapped out for those sequels…so maybe it means they’re planning meticulously. Who knows?
Po and the crew get a solid four and a half homemade dumplings out of five from me. Go see it in theatres if you can!
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