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Kung Fu Panda 3

D: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni / 95m

Cast: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, James Hong, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Jackie Chan, Kate Hudson, Randall Duk Kim

In the Spirit World, Master Oogway (Kim) has his chi stolen from him by the villainous Kai (Simmons). With Oogway’s chi and those of the other denizens of the Spirit World, Kai can regain his human form and seek out the only warrior who can defeat him, the Dragon Warrior, aka Po the panda (Black). Meanwhile, Po has his own problems. Master Shifu (Hoffman) has given him the role of teaching the Famous Five, and subsequently he meets his real father, Li (Cranston). When Kai sends his emissaries to challenge Po, the Famous Five intervene but aren’t strong enough to defeat them; one by one they have their chi’s taken from them. Only Po has the strength and skill to best Kai, but first he must travel with his father to the village of his birth, and take instruction in how to become a Chi master; only then will he be able to defeat Kai and banish him back to the Spirit World.

KFP3 - scene1

Sequels with 3 in the title are often tired, limited affairs that trade on former glories while lacking the energy and freshness of their predecessors. However, Kung Fu Panda 3 bucks the trend and delivers a movie that is as energetic as 1 and 2, and proves to be just as entertaining. The kung fu moves are as impressive as ever, and the animated stylings that go with them are particularly exciting, especially in the Spirit World, where physics is a concept that’s easily ignored. In the real world, Po’s dilemma at discovering his real father after being raised so faithfully by Mr Ling (Hong) is played out amidst a strong mix of comedy and pathos, and the depiction of the panda village is bursting with wonderful characters and visual humour.

Kai is a villain in the mold of the first movie’s Tai Lung, and as a result is the movie’s weakest link, but Simmons is obviously having fun with the role (as is everyone else), and in comparison with the rest of the story, the character’s familiarity is not a major flaw. The burgeoning relationship between Po and Li is a definite bonus and has been handled well by scriptwriters Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, their inclusion of Mr Ling doing justice to the relationship established in parts one and two. The visuals are as stunning as ever, and the colours have a photo-realistic sheen to them that haven’t been seen in previous outings, making it all the more superb than before.

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Rating: 8/10 – a treat for the eyes (and as rewarding for the mind), Kung Fu Panda 3 is something of a retread of the first movie but in this case, it’s not a bad thing; with a superb voice cast and stunning animation throughout, this sequel proves that putting a lot of heart and soul into a movie pays off every time.