“I’m going to turn you into Kung Fu Masters,” says Po (voiced by Jack Black) to a village full of pandas who he needs to turn into a fighting army in order to defeat a new deadly enemy threatening all of China in the third installment of the animated movie series, Kung Fu Panda 3.
Po is enjoying his life of being the hero of his village, training and fighting with his friends to keep the village safe. However, but Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) is adamant that it’s time for Po to accept a new responsibility: becoming a teacher of Kung Fu. Hesitant but willing to try, Po attempts to teach his Kung Fu pals and fails miserably, admitting to Shifu, “I can’t teach them Kung Fu and they already know Kung Fu.” When Po visits his father, Mr. Ping (voiced by James Hong), to try to build up his confidence, he meets a traveling older panda named Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston) who’s looking for the son who he lost many years ago. Suddenly the two realize almost at the exact same time that Po is Li’s missing son. The two pandas hug, laugh, and begin to get to know each other with a very jealous Ping trying to insert himself into their reunion. The reunited father and son travel to Li’s home (a secret panda paradise) so Po can finally learn all about his relatives and how to be a true panda.
Meanwhile, a powerful, supernatural villain named Kai (voiced by J.K. Simmons) finds a way to escape the spiritual afterlife and begins to sweep across China taking on and defeating all the Kung Fu Masters who try to stop him. Shifu learns of the return of Kai, but he and the Furious Five are no match for the evil warrior and only Tigress (voiced by Angelina Jolie) is able to barely escape. She seeks out Po and tells him what’s happened and how strong Kai is, and Po becomes determined to beat him and save all the Kung Fu masters he has imprisoned. Tigress is insistent that he’s not strong enough to defeat Kai, so Po’s birth father tells him to build his own Kung Fu army by training all the pandas. Po must finally face his destiny to become a real teacher of Kung Fu.
Full of laughs and action-packed, Kung Fu Panda 3 accomplishes a feat most third entries in film franchises fail to accomplish: it’s just as strong as the original film of the series. All the original voice talent who know exactly how to bring these lovable characters to life return, along with some great new additions. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Breaking Bad) is perfect, bringing to life Li, Po’s long-lost father, with just the right amount of humor and emotion blended into the character. He’s a welcome addition to the franchise.
J.K. Simmons is wonderful as the voice of the supernatural baddie of the film, Kai. Simmons brings to the character a great mix of menace along with and some unexpected humor. It’s a great running joke in the film that no one – not even Shifu – remembers or has any recollection of Kai, which drives him up the wall.
The film looks breathtaking with its stunning use of colors and first-rate animation. Especially impressive is the visual dreamscape of the spirit world. Equally so is the beauty of the Panda Paradise. In fact, it’s the most visually stunning film of the three and the use of 3D greatly enhances all of the action scenes.
Visually breathtaking with exciting, original action scenes, lots of laugh-out-loud humor, plenty of slapstick and heart, and with a solid message for children, Kung Fu Panda 3 is the first must-see film of 2016.
MPAA Rating: PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor
Running Time: 95 minutes
Release Date: January 29, 2016