Though it didn't necessarily catapult Dreamworks to new hights, the Kung Fu Panda movies, stood strong as rock solid animation movies that managed to entertaing both kids and adults alike.
Especially with a spot-on voice cast that gave life and character to each of the martial arts fighting animals, no character disappointed. While the first movie was a nice introduction into the Kung Fu Panda world, the second movie got significantly darker in tone yet balanced it out with way better choregraphed action, a more interesting villain and deeper plot.
So it's a no-brainer that a Kung Fu Panda 3 was coming. Question is where the franchise will go next with the clumsy Kung Fu Panda, Po.
When Po's long-lost panda father suddenly reappears, the reunited duo travels to a secret panda paradise to meet scores of hilarious new panda characters. But when the supernatural villain Kai begins to sweep across China defeating all the kung fu masters, Po must do the impossible-learn to train a village full of his fun-loving, clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas.
Though it sure enough doesn't mark the highpoint of the franchise, Kung Fu Panda 3 nevertheless marks another mostly entertaining entry in the franchise. With new themes and complications explored and the slapstick comedy as well as verbal comedy being for the most part just excellent, the good definitely outweighs the bad here - if only by a hair.
With that said, fans of the franchise definitely shouldn't expect any overly huge revelations about characters or backstories or any great evolution of the franchise at all, but just more of the same, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
|A whole new world.|
What gets clear right from the start, is that Kung Fu Panda 3 begins and keeps a very fast pace throughout its roughly shortwhile 80-minute runtime. Yet seeing that we are already two movies into the franchise's story complete with its various characters and lore established, there really is no need to slow down for the movie anyway.
On the contrary, the movie's fast pace really works in its comedy's favor, because the comedic timing in Kung Fu Panda 3 really is near perfect. Most prominent in the first half of the movie, the movie busts out gag after gag after gag, and most of the time in such a manner that you don't see the gags coming. Furthermore, Kung Fu Panda 3 just manages to hit the perfect balance between kid-friendly jokes and comedy that also appeals to adults in an amusingly innocent but fun way - even without any dirty innuendos.
Rarely has the franchise boasted a comedic tone that resembled so much the good ole' time of late 90s saturday morning cartoon shows.
|What a joy. So much comedic cartoon goodness.|
The big new theme in Kung Fu Panda 3 is most definitely the father-son relationship. Though this has to some extent also been explored a bit in the first and second movie, the entire third movie now revolves around it.
In that sense, Kung Fu Panda 3 introduces main protagonist Po to his long lost father and even an entire village full of other pandas, which brings a lot of joy but also complications with itself, since Po now has two fathers: Mr. Ping, the goose that adopted Po when he was little, and his biological father, the panda Li.
What first starts off as a series of competitive situations where Ping and Li try to show off who the better father is, slowly develops into a somewhat serious real-life issue where some viewers with two father figures might actually very well relate to Po's struggle. Luckily, Kung Fu Panda 3 manages to balance and handle this big plot theme very well and lead it to a very cheerful solution and heartwarming morale.
|The father-son problems are fun yet carefully and very well handeled.|
Aside from the big father-son relationship troubles, Kung Fu Panda 3 doesn't really offer much in terms of a strong story though - and that's easily the movie's biggest negative.
Although it handles all of its themes pretty well, there's just no denying that there are not that many themes or plots to handle to begin with. Aside from Po meeting his real father and getting to know the other Pandas in the secret village, there is barely anything else happening.
The big bad guy in the movie, Kai, a big ghostly yak with supernatural powers, is a great villain in concept but fails to give a lasting impression. Except for the big final showdown, Kai most of the time feels slapped into the movie just to have Po fight another bad guy. Resultingly, Kai as a villain is weakly fleshed out. His motivations come down to the bare minmum of simply wanting to eliminate every Kung Fu master to become stronger...that's it.
To be fair, no villain in Kung Fu Panda ever has been all too memorable, yet Kai really sticks out in that regard by having barely anything to do in the movie except to be the sole reason to have things be at stake and to have a showdown at the end.
Sure you could say that the franchise at least has a whole bunch of new characters introduced with just one movie, but if that really is all that the entire franchise gained from this third entry, one cannot deny that the plot in Kung Fu Panda 3 could've been signficantly thickened to make the narrative more interesting.
Actionwise, Kung Fu Panda 3 delivers for the most part.
While the two previous entries in the trilogy are definitely stronger in the fight choreography aspects, Kung Fu Panda 3 admittedly works with way more supernatural elements in its fights than before. Now, with the ghostly Kai involved, he is able to use magic in his favor to summon henchmen made out of jade and other tricks. Thus, the fights themselves also take place in a much more sparkly dimension and magical kind of way instead of actual physical fights. While this for some might be a nice change of pace since it fits nicely into the newly introduced power of the Chi, others might find these more magic utilizing fights to be understandably quite a bit boring.
Yet to be fair, not all of the fights in Kung Fu Panda 3 are magic related, there also is a whole bunch of scenes involving old fashioned phyisical fights. Those might not necessarily be all too exciting from the action front, but make up for it by miles with their great inclusion of various perfectly timed gags.
|Don't expect too much from Kai or the supernatural fights in the movie.|
Overall, Kung Fu Panda 3 mostly is just more of the same, and considering that we are talking about a rock solid animated franchise to begin with, that's mostly a good thing.
With Po now meeting up with his real biological father and a whole secret village full of other pandas, Po is thrown into an identity crisis which also involves his now two fathers who compete over who the better and more important father is. And while this definitely is a great theme in the movie that is handled with much care and a heartwarming solution, Kung Fu Panda 3's story sadly is very slim on delivering anything else.
Regarding the fact that the comedy along with its big pallette of gags and jokes is on the forefront here, Kung Fu Panda 3 for the most part manages to cover up its lack of a deeper plot quite well (at least up to the big showdown). The movie does a fantastic job in delivering unexpected gags one after the other in a heartbeat, reminding one heavily of the good ole' times of 90s saturday morning cartoon shows. And for some, this might understandably just be enough to give this third adventure a watch.
Even when Kung Fu Panda 3 sure enough isn't the highlight of the franchise, it nevertheless gives fans more of what they came to expect from it. And while there were better stories told in the two previous entries, it can be safely said that if this is really the last adventure we saw of Po and friends, it ended on a just satisfying enough albeit not perfect note.
Final Verdict: 6 out of 10