A vibrant and quick animated feature, Kung Fu Panda 3 solidifies the roly-poly hero as the jewel in the crown of DreamWorks Animation. This 2016 picture is directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni from a screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger.
Kung Fu Panda 3 picks up where its predecessors left off by ensconcing itself in a well-designed world of colour and enthralling action. It showcases characters the audience cares about and explores a deep, interesting mythology that is mindful without slipping into façade. Its tranquil approach is also to its credit, as it wisely resists the urge to overstuff the plot.
The film opens in the Spirit Realm, where Grandmaster Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) has been doing battle with his adversary Kai (J.K. Simmons). The nefarious Kai has been stealing the chi of other fighters and collects Oogway’s as well, with designs on returning to the mortal realm. Oogway warns him that Po (Jack Black) will stop him.
Po is given the role of teacher after the retirement of Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). He has trouble teaching the Furious Five and things are further complicated with the arrival of his biological father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston). Po seeks out the counsel of his father and other pandas in order to learn about chi and defeat the marauding Kai.
Kung Fu Panda 3 keeps things simple in that it focuses on Po and his journey to self-discovery. There are no sidetracks, although there are a few scenes that detail the Furious Five’s battle against Kai. Master Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Master Crane (David Cross) are provided a funny section as they try to take on the bad guy.
But for the most part, Nelson and Carloni zero in on Po. They unfurl the universe of the pandas as a tumbling and amusing realm of dumplings and naps. A combination of animation techniques reveals the multi-dimensional dominion, with some riveting montage sequences cutting straight to the point.
Along with the efficiency of approach, Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts some of the finest choreography in recent memory. The fight scenes are fast and slickly animated, with innovative possibilities turning even the most expected conflicts into slapstick showcases. The animals are granted related skillsets and fight accordingly, with some awe-inspiring scenes peppering the way.
The dynamic between Po and his father is effective because it’s not overplayed. There’s legitimate emotion between characters, with Mr. Ping (James Hong) coming along as the third paternal wheel. The clash of fathers is developed smartly, with delicate underpinnings resulting in a conversation that isn’t overwrought in the slightest.
Because of its brevity and brilliant choreography, Kung Fu Panda 3 has more in common with a martial arts flick than a rambling, morose “animated classic.” And this works in its favour, as it grants the picture a grace deeply needed in modern cinema.
From the deftness of the voice acting to the intensity of the animation, this movie is a delight. It’s the perfect film for drawing a little sunshine into a dark day and its mix of compelling characters and breathtaking action is just the ticket. And its humour and soul is sufficient to make even the grumpiest old bears wish for just one day as a fluffy, dumpling-loving panda.