Po (Jack Black) has been reunited with his long-lost father Li (Bryan Cranston) — but their cheery reconcilation is interrupted by the fiendish Kai (J. K. Simmons), a demonic warrior who is determined to take down all the kung fu masters…
If the closing words are to be believed then this will be “The End” for Po the panda, and if so it’s a grand farewell. Directed by the second film’s Jennifer Yuh Nelson, along with Alessandro Carloni, part three doesn’t simply repeat the themes of the previous two but expands them, while maintaining a high hit-rate on laughs and gorgeous production design.
Where else will you get to see a kung fu-fighting chicken or a panda dressed as a warrior dolphin?
Po (Jack Black) has been tracked down by his long-last father (Bryan Cranston), which would be great news if it weren’t for the god-like warrior who has come from the spirit realm to destroy every kung fu master. So it falls to Po, who is still a bit dubious about being the Dragon Warrior, to learn who he can be and, in his relationship with his dad, find out where he came from. And we all get a chirpy lesson in the philosophy of ch’i, which is something to do with plants and closing your eyes.
Although there are now multiple characters on screen, and a big expensive pile of household names voicing them, everyone gets something worthwhile to do. There’s confidence in the storytelling, which is swift and cheerful without the darkness of the last film, that allows for silly incidental comedy moments. By now the team has a great handle on the absurdity of the whole thing. Where else will you get to see a kung fu-fighting chicken or a panda dressed as a warrior dolphin?
Rather than the cynical ‘one last grab’ of the series, Kung Fu Panda 3 might actually be the best. Also, and this is so rarely the case that it’s worth mentioning, it deserves to be seen in 3D.