Kung Fu Panda 3
With the valley safe and at peace Master Shifu decides the time is ripe for him to focus on his own studies. Consequently he leaves a terrified Po in charge of the temple, bestowing the role of teacher on his woefully prepared charge. It quickly becomes apparent that the student has not, in fact, become the master and the ‘Furious Five’ suffer the consequences. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Po and co., in the spirit realm Master Ooguay’s old nemesis Master Kai (voiced by the ever excellent J.K. Simmons) is hatching a sinister plot, which could mean the end of everything Po and friends hold dear. If Kung Fu Panda saw Po chasing after his dream/destiny and Kung Fu Panda 2 was all about facing down his deepest fears to discover peace within then Kung Fu Panda 3 finds our lovably bumbling hero confronted with questions of identity and self-acceptance as he seeks the spiritual mastery needed to meet this new threat.
Defying typical sequel quality drop-off—and thereby putting it in the lofty company of fellow Dreamworks franchise How to Train Your Dragon—Kung Fu Panda 3 delivers on all fronts, serving up an enveloping viewing experience all tinged in lush greens and golds. The filmmakers and animators have created several distinct but complementary colour palettes for each of the film’s three key settings. The narrative contains the requisite escalating conflict between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ but unfolds with well-crafted humour—Master Shifu’s ongoing bewilderment at Po’s apparent undeserved favour continues to provide some quality chuckles—and enough originality that the underlying dramatic template doesn’t dominate.
This third instalment will definitely strike a chord with its primary demographic if Misses 5 and 7 are believable yardsticks. Both were engaged throughout, laughing, yelling support and indignation at the screen (much to the amusement of several nearby reviewers) and, tellingly, role playing the characters for days following the viewing. A request for the imminent blu ray was filed during the car ride home. As for the parents, well we had a damn fine time of it too. The humour lands as well as we’ve come to expect from the franchise and there are some pleasing narrative twists in Po’s face-off with chief villain Kai making Kung Fu Panda 3 smarter than your average bear.
Rating: PG Low level violence.