Monday, February 1, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3 Review

Kung Fu Panda 3 Trailer
Usually when a film franchise hits film number three, the steam starts to fade away. The fireworks begin to cease and the shine starts to come off. It takes something really extraordinary to tell a great story over the course of three films. Especially in this climate of Hollywood acting lazy and churning out familiar fair just to get the greenbacks. How many great sequels have their been with a number 3 tagged on the side of them? I know, not that many. 

The only family franchise I can think of that really told three unique, awe-inspiring stories was the "Toy Story" franchise, which has made "Toy Story 4" something to be afraid of. Getting something right three times in a row is a huge accomplishment in this business, do they really want to take the risk of tarnishing everything they have accomplished? But Hollywood has always been more oriented with making money over creativity and genuine thought. So why should I be surprised? I really loved the first "Kung Fu Panda" in 2008. I really enjoyed "Kung Fu Panda 2" in 2011, but not entirely on the same degree as the first. It seems Po (Jack Black) learned several lessons in the first movie, then re-learned them all again in the second movie, rendering the sequel useless.

So color me surprised when it was barely ten minutes into "Kung Fu Panda 3" when Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) offers Po the opportunity to become teacher of the kung fu school he was taught at. I thought to myself, this is quite the change, and could lead to some very big moments and a brand new frontier for the franchise. Well, that doesn't last very long, as Po realizes that teaching kung fu, especially to masters Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross), is an impossible task. His old friends quickly resent him. Embarrassed and rejected, Po goes back to his village and his adoptive father Mr. Ping (James Hong) and enters a dumpling eating contest. Po looses the contest to none other than his real father Li (Bryan Cranston), and Li wants Po to accompany him to the Panda village to learn more about being a Panda. Po accepts, but while he's gone an ancient evil (J.K. Simmons) arises from the Spirit Realm to destroy the kung fu academy.

So instead of a third movie dealing in the inner strength of being who you truly inspire to be, "Kung Fu Panda 3" dabbles a little in the realm of identity and forming happiness with your biological family and your adoptive family. Still, by the end of the movie, there is still a little life lesson stuff as Po prepares an army to battle the ancient evil. But I have to give kudos to a movie that at least tries to form its own identity, to separate itself from the rest of the herd, even if its only for part of the movie. As someone who was adopted themselves, playing with the roles of identity was something that definitely perked my attention. 

Did I mention that the movie has several moments that made me laugh out loud? Even if we never see his face, there is no denying that Jack Black can easily command a character from a microphone. So can the rest of the cast. The movie's animation is lush and beautiful and as grand as any animated world we have seen so far. There are plenty of bright colors, fun characters, funny dialogue and several scenes that will make your kids happy. But as a 26-year-old, I like my family movies to be just that, family movies. I have to say that parents wondering if they will be bored during this movie should relax, and just enjoy the journey along with your kiddos. There is plenty that both children and adults will enjoy and this cast really brings it to their roles.

So, more than ever before, skidoosh lives. Its hard to make three movies in one franchise and make them worthwhile. That is why I think "Kung Fu Panda" will always have a special place in my heart. Three very good- decent movies isn't bad at all. If Dreamworks has a fourth installment in their clutches, I hope they try new themes and stories with these characters, they maybe surprised by the results.


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