"Kung Fu Panda 3" stars Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, and J.K. Simmons. Released on January 29, 2016, the film has Po reuniting with his biological father, but when a supernatural foe rises to threaten China, he must learn the secrets of becoming a teacher in order to stop him.
The film is directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who is known for directing Kung Fu Panda 2, and Alessandro Carloni. It is the third installment of the Kung Fu Panda film series. There are many reasons why I loved the first two Kung Fu Panda films: the animation, the characters, the humor, the fight sequences, and the story. When I heard that there's going to be a third film, I was really excited to see which direction they're going to go with the franchise. I mean, I've been waiting for less than five years to see this film. The question is, was it worth it? Being a lover of the franchise, I'll try my best not to get all "fanboy-ish" since I saw it for reviewing purposes.
The main cast once again reprised their original roles from the first two films, including Jack Black as Po and Dustin Hoffman as Shifu. Black was still hilarious as Po. He's kind, lovable, and funny. He's exactly what I expect from him. There were also some new characters that appeared in the animated sequel, including Po's biological father, Li Shan (voiced by Bryan Cranston), Mei Mei (voiced by Kate Hudson), and the new villain Kai (voiced by J.K. Simmons). I'll get to him later. The animation is still the big highlight of the film franchise. Not only does it express the characters and the look and feel of China, but it is used to increase the amount of depth in the story. The 3D sequences worked wonders with the 2D sequences without expressing one over the other. Like the first two films, this film also involves a lot of kung fu sequences and they were really cool to look at. They're fast-paced, entertaining, and sometimes humorous. The story was also pretty good as it continues Po's journey to learning the secrets of being the Dragon Warrior. Although I would like to see more of the specific pandas from the Panda village instead of just Po's father, such as Mei Mei. She's a ribbon dancer, yes, but I think she needed more character development, in my opinion. The main theme of the story felt a bit similar to the second film, but it's also good for the kids to learn.
However, I do feel that this is a bit of a step down from the second film for a couple of reasons. One of them is the new villain Kai. He's been classified as the first supernatural villain of the series. His powers are a force to be reckon with, but he's not enough to become my favorite animated villain from Dreamworks Animation. That slot still belongs to Lord Shen from Kung Fu Panda 2. Kai comes off as an average power-hungry villain and nothing else. The pacing felt a bit rushed but it's enough to keep the kids entertained, even though the emotional depth wasn't as deep as the second film.
Overall, with its breathtaking animation, witty humor, and some fun action sequences, "Kung Fu Panda 3" is a beautiful continuation of one of my favorite animated franchises from Dreamworks Animation. Sure, it's a small step down from the other two films in terms of the villain and depth, but it still holds the ingredients of what made this film series fun and gorgeous without going a bit too big in the process. If you like the first two Kung Fu Panda films, chances are you're going to like this installment as well. The animation season of 2016 started off rough with Norm of the North, but it pulled itself together thanks to this film. Skadoosh!