Once again a Kung Fu Panda movie has featured some gorgeous, gob-smacking, toe-curling animation used as a backdrop to a rather run-of-the-mill, ho-hum, straight-back-and-sides story.
Can you really remember what happened in Kung Fu Panda 1 or 2? This third outing ramps up the cute factor but the visuals is what you’ll take away with you once again.
Part three opens with Po (Black) graduating to the level of teacher much to the chagrin of his fellow students (Jolie, Lucy Liu, Seth Rogan, Jackie Chan, David Cross). Meanwhile, rogue general Kai (Simmons) has returned from the spirit world where he has harvested all the masters’ chi - life essence/soul/prana/add own take here – and has set his sights on Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the Furious Five. Po, reunited with his real father (Cranston), makes for a secret village populated by pandas where dad promises to help him hone Po’s chi…
Writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, who have written all three instalments (and perhaps the next three if rumours are to be believed), struggle this time to inject the energy the first two had and fail to find something new and exciting for Po to do; there’s only so many times you can make jokes about the hero’s weight and his lack of fighting skills when he’s now a Dragon Master Teacher Something. Po is absent from a lot of the action too as most of the high kicks hijinks goes down when he’s off in the mountains reconnecting with his dad. The Panda series never offered up charismatic villains and apart from his eye-catching jade swords Simmons’ evil yak suffers the same fate as the funny running joke – no one remembers who Kai is. However my four-year-old couldn’t look every time he was on screen so perhaps he’s got the scary thing down.
The fun side is light and fluffy. Kids should enjoy Po discovering his inner Panda – eating a basket of dumplings in one go, rolling down a hill instead of walking, catapulting up a mountain instead of not bothering at all – and the son-dad relationship is a touching one. But all this pales in comparison to the sumptuous visuals (the opening action sequence between Kai and Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) is a stunner.