With recent animated charmers like Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, and Zootopia, there’s been a tendency within the genre to get all cerebral with complicated plots and plenty of deep thinking. Well, Kung Fu Panda 3 is here to give all that brain work a solid kick to the butt. Not that there’s anything wrong with injecting a little intelligence into animated films, and nor is there anything dumb about Kung Fu Panda 3, but sometimes it’s nice to see a big screen cartoon that just, well, really moves. Tight and tidy at a snappy 95 minutes, this is a fast paced pleaser that won’t confuse the young ones while keeping their older halves pretty entertained too.
A tale of discovery and identity, Kung Fu Panda 3 focuses on eponymous hero, Po (voiced with characteristic verve and enthusiasm by Jack Black), finally meeting up with his real father, Li (the perfectly cast Bryan Cranston), much to the chagrin of his adoptive dad, Mr. Ping (James Hong). The familial bonding, however, has to take a backseat to the action, as the evil villain, Kai (J.K. Simmons obviously had a hoot in the sound booth), returns from another dimension (or something) to steal the “chi” – or life energy (or something) – of the cuddly panda inhabitants of Po’s newly discovered home village. With his new family under threat, the butt-kicking Po must prepare them – somehow – to battle the big, bad, and nasty Kai.
Largely sidelining its impressive cast of voice talent (Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Lucy Liu, Kate Hudson, Seth Rogen, and Jackie Chan have very little to do here, and likely sent in their contributions as email sound file attachments), Kung Fu Panda 3 is a classic father-and-son story, and the vocal interplay between Jack Black and Bryan Cranston is one of the film’s highlights. The evil villain subplot, however, is a little pedestrian, but there’s more than enough humour to make up for it, and the visuals are, as expected, kaleidoscopic in their colour and energy. Kung Fu Panda 3 is no game-changer, but it’s a solid entry into a consistently fun and funny animated franchise.