While I have always maintained that I prefer animation movies from Disney/Pixar over Dreamworks because of its superior storytelling, I may have mentioned in one of my earlier posts that Dreamworks is slowly but surely catching up with the former. I think they may finally have a winner with Po’s third outing when it managed to blend the lightness of Jack Black’s comedy with the emotional impact of the story founded on love for oneself and for others.
The story revolves around a new nemesis, General Kai, who escapes the spirit realm after taking the chi of all the great masters, including Master Oogway. He vows to make a name for himself in the mortal world by defeating the Dragon Warrior and prove that he is the best and strongest warrior in both realms. Back home, Po, who is getting used to the limelight that comes with being the chosen one, finds himself at a loss when Shi Fu turns over the training of the Furious Five — Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Viper (Lucy Liu), Mantis (Seth Rogen) and Crane (David Cross) to him. As if the new challenge isn’t enough, he comes face to face with his long lost father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) who tells him that there is a secret village of pandas and that he is not the last of his species after all. With the threat of Kai upon them, Po goes with his dad to master his chi with the help of his fellow pandas to be the dragon warrior that the city needs to protect them.
Let me just say that while I liked the first Kung Fu Panda, I thought it relied to much on Jack Black’s comedy. I also liked Kung Fu Panda 2 because the animation was more fluid and it was generally funnier, but let me just say now, straight off the bat, that I loved Kung Fu Panda 3 because it felt so natural. The story flowed well. It was super funny, very light but very impactful.
For one, I loved the two dads angle. The fact that both Po’s dads loved him so much was so heartwarming and the lengths they went to prove how important their son was to them just brought tears to my eyes. I loved the action montages, which I always believed was one of the major strengths of this franchise. I loved it when they switched to 2D vector animation for the flashbacks and training sequences which felt very consistent with Part 2. And I loved General Kai’s entrance music. Very very cool.
I think the best part about Kung Fu Panda 3 was that it was already very sure about where the franchise stood. The characters have already been established so the focus of the development was on the story, and that was completely okay. Sure, it wasn’t the most original, but it delivered the impact needed to deliver its message clearly. Sometimes, it takes simplicity to accomplish this task and Kung Fu Panda 3 made it work.
The pandas were adorable which only added to the plus list of this film and I liked that it didn’t try to hard to be different, or to surpass its predecessors. In doing so, it managed to do offhand what it didn’t intend to do — be the best installment in the franchise. And this is great news.
All in all, I had a lot of fun with Kung Fu Panda 3. It was sometimes bordering on cheesy and corny but I had no problem with that because its part and parcel of the franchise and the characters. Bottom line: I had too much fun that I didn’t get to note the negatives and that, in itself, I think is something worth noting.