********* 7 out of 10 *********
Director: Alessandro Carloni & Jennifer Yuh
Actors: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons
There are some Hollywood characters whom we wouldn’t mind meeting every year or so. The beloved panda Po is most certainly one of them. The third movie in this successful franchise of DreamWorks Animation has come after a considerable gap of five years (there was a three-year gap between the first two movies), but the studio has made it worth the wait. Kung Fu Panda 2 had ended with a shot of a panda village where Po’s father (the real one) seems to have sensed Po’s presence. Now Kung Fu Panda 3 brings forth the reunion of Po not only with his father but also with his clan which had been presumed to have been wiped out. But as with any other Kung Fu Panda movie, here too Po has to deal with a deadly nemesis, Kai whose past is linked with none other than Oogway and who has come from the eternal world seeking revenge. More than that – just like the other Kung Fu Panda movies – Po has to learn something more about himself which will be the only way to defeat Kai.
Kung Fu Panda 3 excels in the story department. Writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger have kept a similar thematic tone to the adventures of Po seen before, even though they take him away from the Jade Palace to a secret village of pandas. Just like the previous two movies, defeating the bad guy becomes secondary to discovering something more about oneself. In Kung Fu Panda 3, it is not only Po who learns something new but also his panda father and the panda clan. The depth of the story is amazing and the manner in which it has been executed by the team led by directors Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh is fantastic. For a brief period in the first half of the movie, the story does seem to be straying from its core, but it gets back in line quickly and effectively. With its bright colourful animation and the oriental touch, Kung Fu Panda 3 becomes a joyous and meaningful adventure you wish you could have been a part of.
While sequels to an animated movie usually turn into diluted versions of the original, giving the vibes of a TV series rather than a feature film, Kung Fu Panda 3 keeps the charm of the original very much alive. It’s hilarious from the start to the end, largely because of the way Po is. Jack Black, as the voice of Po, shines once more in a role that I cannot imagine being given to anyone else. He is the heart and soul of Po; he makes each line that much more memorable, that much more enjoyable, and thankfully the directors and Jack Black do not let Po get too serious about himself. Because that is what makes Po, Po! Bryan Cranston joins the voice cast as Po’s father Li, and makes an immediate impact with his deep resonating voice that gives Li a more mature feel. J.K. Simmons is another fantastic addition voicing Kai; this is yet another great villain that the series has created, with a wonderful back-story to give it more depth, and Simmons gives Kai the roughness and a raw edge which makes him appear all the more dangerous. We have the old cast back too, and it is always great to hear them on the big screen; Dustin Hoffman as Shifu and Randall Duk Kim as Oogway sound as wise and learned as their characters, James Hong as Mr. Ping (the goose) has a much bigger role this time in which he excels and creates a stronger emotional connect with Mr. Ping, and Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu and David Cross lighten up the screen by providing their voices for the Furious Five.
The studio has been patient with this series, not rushing to build a new one on the success of the previous movie. The care with which they the film-makers have approached this series is quite visible in the final output that is warm, joyful and emotionally appealing. Kung Fu Panda 3 completes a trilogy of sorts, worthy of being the perfect end to Po’s adventures. The movie’s success though is likely to keep the franchise growing further, and we wouldn’t mind that as long as the future versions continue to have the same big, fuzzy heart that the previous three movies have had.