Arriving five years after the release of Kung Fu Panda 2 – apparently the longest wait for a Dreamworks animated sequel to date the third instalment in the beloved Kung Fu Panda franchise is as amusing and charming as ever.
Directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Kung Fu Panda 3 once again picks up with everyone’s favourite martial-arts-loving panda, Po (Black), who, after saving the world from the hands of the evil Tai Lung and Lord Shen in the previous film, is now facing a couple of his biggest challenges yet.
First and foremost, Master Shifu (Hoffman) – who is eager to show Po the mystical ways of chi and see him fulfil his Dragon Warrior destiny decides to go on a spiritual quest, leaving Po in charge of the Valley of the Peace, unsure whether he’s got the skills to stand up to the new responsibility.
That’s when Po asks help from the Furious Five Tigress (Jolie), Mantis (Rogen), Viper (Liu), Monkey (Chan) and Crane (Cross) to keep him in check. However, nothing could have prepared him for the unexpected arrival of Li (Cranston); his biological father who has come to find his son and take him back to a secret panda sanctuary.
Adding to the list of challenges-to-overcome, the reappearance of the villainous Kai (Simmons); a hulking monster who has re-emerged after centuries of banishment in order to take control of China by stealing the chi from all the great martial arts warriors.
Stylish, colourful and, at times, genuinely engaging, the animation work is absolutely stunning this time round and everything from character designs to the gorgeous environments is realised in a lavish treatment of creativity, vision and style.
More importantly, however, is that the story, which once again highlights the importance of ‘being yourself’, is involving. Although a little slow in the middle, the action-scenes, amplified with Hans Zimmer’s fetching musical score, are thoroughly engaging too. On the downside, however, there are bits in the film that feel a little repetitive and redundant, while some of the characters, including J.K Simmons’ not-so-villainous Kai, don’t feel as developed or as utilised as perhaps they should have been while Jack Black’s Po as well as Cranston’s endearing turn as Po’s loving father is as usual, the heart and soul, of the movie.
Offering plenty to sink your teeth into in terms of story, visuals and characters, the series has returned with yet another highly-enjoyable addition and although, a small dose of sameness has managed to sneak its way into the mix this time, there is still plenty of heart and humour to keep things ticking along nicely and keep this super-successful animated-series alive.