By Linley McCord
For the season’s first big animated film, “Kung Fu Panda 3” isn’t bad. It may not be your first choice for a movie on a Friday night, but if you’re looking for some lighthearted family entertainment, this is a pretty good option.
Like its predecessors, the film follows a pretty simple plot: life is good, a problem is presented, a fat panda is put to the job with his surprising kung fu abilities, he somehow saves the world (spoiler alert), and he learns a valuable life lesson. Haven’t seen one or both of the first two? You might be a little confused because there are references to them, but they’re easy to pick up on.
In this particular story, Po the panda (voiced by Jack Black) has to learn the ancient magic of chi—your inner energy—in order to defeat Kai (J.K. Simmons), an evil buffalo (or something) from the spirit world who has come back to exact his revenge. Po travels to a secret panda village with his newfound biological father (Bryan Cranston) to learn this art of chi in order to save the world/discover who he really is.
It is surprisingly funny—Jack Black’s twist on a dumpling-loving panda will definitely keep you entertained—and the plot moves along pretty well. There are some great pop culture references, a few puns just bad enough to get a laugh, and some other smile-worthy moments. It’s not “Inside Out” funny or emotionally strong, but definitely has some solid moments of humor and impressive character building.
There is a side plot of Po’s biological father and the father who raised him (mind you, he’s a goose) having some tension as they attempt to share their only son. It does feel a little forced at times by overemphasizing the “two dads” concept, but isn’t a major aspect of the plot. More than anything, it’s part of Po’s developing self-identity, which will be the biggest takeaway for any kids seeing the movie.
For a Dreamworks animated movie, it was pretty cute and gets 7/10 stars.
Rated PG for mild action.