TL;DR – A beautifully animated film with real heart and warmth, that elevates it above most ‘kids’ films that you see in cinemas.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Before we start, let’s be honest for a moment, it is not that hard to make a successful kid’s film. Kid’s love simple slapstick humour, vibrant colourful characters, and hey chuck in a sing-along CD and a toy line and you’re set. Indeed parents like anything that they can sit their kid’s in front of so they can have a moment of peace to clean up the carnage that kids leave in their wake. This is why Angry Birds will be a financial success and parent’s cabinets are filled with DVDs of whatever Cars knockoff is going at the moment. Making a successful kid’s film, not that hard, making a good kid’s film, well that’s another thing entirely. However, after last week’s Zootopia and this week’s Kung Fu Panda 3 we can see that it is possible to create a kid’s film that is both successful and in fact really quite good. Indeed it is a really good time for animated films at the moment, and kid’s films in general, because people are actually taking the time to create thought-provoking quality work, see Inside Out, Wreck-it Ralph, Big Hero 6, How To Train Your Dragon, literally anything by Studio Ghibli and indeed today’s film Kung Fu Panda 3.
Kung Fu Panda continues the story of Po (Jack Black) the Dragon Warrior that uses his unique characteristics of being a Panda, a Kung Fu Panda if you will, to fight against threats to the valley of the Jade Temple with his friends the Furious Five, Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Crane (David Cross) under the supervision of their master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). At the start of the film they discover two very important things, one Po is not alone (hey they literally set this up in the last film don’t get all uppity about spoilers), and two, a frenemy from their old master Oogway’s (Randall Duk Kim) past is back and is a threat to literally everyone.
A lot of what makes this film and its predecessors work is the energy Jack Black puts into his performance. In a lot of his other works I can really tire of Black’s performance, as it can be very one note, but here he shows a great range whilst still remaining upbeat and vibrant. The core of the film is Po’s interactions with his biological father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) and adoptive father Mr Ping (James Hong) and this is where the film shines. This is a complicated nuanced relationship, and since in most films step-parents are just code for ‘the villain’, yes I’m looking at you Disney, seeing it done so well is refreshing. In fact, all of the voice cast works really well in this film, the only character that does not really work that well is Mei Mei (Kate Hudson). The story is one of the best of the series so far, part of that is they have a really great villain in Kai (J.K. Simmons) the first villain that can really go head to head with Po in both the action side of the story and on the dialogue side. Also, this film is so funny, so funny.
Another thing that shines with this film is the animation, it is simply superb. The movie augments its stylised 3D animation style at times with these beautiful 2D flashbacks and in other places with a more adapted blended style with the influence of traditional Chinese paintings and it is so great to watch. The animations are smooth and flow with a grace that you don’t often see, to the point I am actually contemplating going back to watch it in 3D to see how they animated some of the sequences. As well as this there were some simply stunning vistas and locations that made so much of this film a joy to watch. Also the music, oh how the music hits all the right notes, it is some of Hans Zimmer’s best work, and he is one of the best movie scores working in the industry at the moment.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is a great film, it is artistically stunning, well-acted, with a beautiful story, and the only possible sing-along is ‘Everyone was Kung Fu Fighting’ so no repeat ‘Let It Go’ calamities in your future. I can highly recommend.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Directed by – Jennifer Yuh Nelson & Alessandro Carloni
Written by – Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger
Starring – Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons, James Hong, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Kate Hudson & Randall Duk Kim
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: G; Ireland: PG; NZ: PG; UK: PG, USA: PG