Roly-poly fighter Po brings his considerable martial artist skills back to a welcome audience in Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda 3, the third installment in the studio’s on-going series of rough and tumble comic adventures with the fighting panda and his friends, the Furious Five.
The Production: 3/5
Roly-poly fighter Po brings his considerable martial artist skills back to a welcome audience in Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda 3, the third installment in the studio’s on-going series of rough and tumble comic adventures with the fighting panda and his friends, the Furious Five. Building on perhaps its sweetest and most kid-friendly franchise, Dreamworks has not strayed very far from the formula that has worked in the previous two movies. There are some endearing new characters, of course, and another formidable villain, but the studio might consider mapping out a new blueprint if we are to venture back into this madly colorful, slapstick-infused feel-good land of cuddly bears and their fierce friends for a fourth go-round.
An ancient, evil force in the spirit realm General Kai (J.K. Simmons) is determined to become master of the world by claiming all of the human world’s chi after having claimed all available chi in the spirit world including that of oriental master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim). Kai knows that he must conquer the world’s Dragon Master Po (Jack Black) and his cohorts Mantis (Seth Rogen), Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Monkey (Jackie Chan), and Viper (Lucy Liu) and capture their chi in order to hold domain over the entire world, but Po has become distracted from his teaching duties imposed on him by Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) when his long lost father Li (Bryan Cranston) arrives to bring his son back to the secret panda village. Though his adoptive father Mr. Ping (James Hong) objects and insists on going along (even though he’s a goose and not a panda), Po learns after arriving that his friends are in trouble and begins readying his new panda family to face their enemy using their own particular skillset.
As in the previous two films, the screenplay by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger stresses themes of being true to oneself and using one’s own talents rather than trying to be something one isn’t along with the tried and true right versus might to lay the groundwork for the rather formulaic narrative. Once again, Po is faced with fighting an irresistible force out to conquer the world and destroy everything he holds dear and must find within himself the answers to outwit rather than outmuscle his adversary. Directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni smoothly stage the slapstick tomfoolery of the early scenes before things get serious as well as the training montages and the climactic fights which feature the expected ebbs and flows as momentum shifts from one side to the other. As with the previous films, the color schemes in the designs of the movie are wildly vivid and feature unusual mixtures of bright primaries and subtle pastels (especially in backgrounds which often switch to stylized tapestry-like abstracts rather than photo-realistic artwork) making the Kung Fu Panda features among the most individual looking artistically in all of feature animated cinema. The franchise also retains the sweetly innocent characterizations of most of the principal characters while downplaying the fiercer elements of their makeup so that the villains can appear that much more formidable.
Jack Black is again the lovable rotund goofball Po who stumbles into his heroics almost by accident and keeps a running commentary of witty, often self-deprecating banter going as he interacts with the film’s other creations. Bryan Cranston is delightful as Po’s biological father Li, and with James Hong’s Mr. Ping around to jealousy guard his paternal rights to Po, there is a consistent pull with the two dads jockeying for quality time with their son. J.K. Simmons is a formidable adversary as the powerful yak General Kai easily dominating his scenes with his vocal authority. Kate Hudson floats into the film as a potential romantic interest as ribbon dancer Mei Mei while Dustin Hoffman, Randall Duk Kim, and Seth Rogen stand out among the supporting players.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. As with most of Dreamworks’ animated output, sharpness is exquisite, and color is immaculately rendered with rich hues that are bright and impressive but never bloom. Contrast has been expertly applied to make for a consistent visual experience. There is no banding present, remarkable for a film which contains so many stylized backgrounds of solid orange, pink, and light purple colors. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix offers a sophisticated blend of beautifully articulated and recorded dialogue in the center channel along with the background score of Hans Zimmer (along with new lyrics to “Kung Fu Fighting” for the climactic production celebration number) spread into the surrounds. The fronts and rears also feature lively panning and most effective atmospheric effects placement to immerse the listener in the world which has been created.
Special Features: 3/5
Everybody Loves a Panda Party (2:34, HD): the “Kung Fu Fighting” production number featuring all of the film’s principal characters. There is also a sing-along karaoke version with printed on-screen lyrics.
Po’s Posters of Awesomeness (3:30, HD): Po gives amusing explanations for a series of posters featuring him on the walls of his father Mr. Ping’s noodle establishment.
Panda Paws (2:23, HD): in this mini movie, ribbon dancer Mei Mei attempts to audition for the leading role in a stage production with outside interference from others who want the lead.
Make a Panda Party Paper Pal (3:38, HD): Po gives detailed instructions on the art of paper folding using an insert included in the disc case that folds into a mini panda figure.
Play Like a Panda (4:44, HD): directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni present some live action baby panda footage the animators used to study while preparing to animate the movie’s baby pandas.
The Origin of “Skadoosh” (2:21, HD): Po explains the origin of his catch phrase “skadoosh.”
Deleted Scenes (7:50, HD): directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni introduce three sequences which were cut from the film and explain why they were no longer needed.
Art Gallery: twenty-nine color images may be advanced manually or automatically.
Theatrical Trailer (2:26, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): Ice Age: Collision Course, Voltra: Legendary Defender, Home, The Peanuts Movie, among others.
DVD/Digital Copy/Ultraviolet: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Undeniably sweet and adventurous but awfully familiar, Kung Fu Panda 3 will find an eager family audience with its lively PG-rated shenanigans (only one pee joke in the whole movie) and gorgeously colorful animated world. The Blu-ray release unquestionably offers reference quality picture and sound and DVD and digital copies to give the package added value.