Maybe it’s just the Star wars in me talking, but in hindsight, it’s hard not to see “Kung Fu Panda 2” as “The Empire Strikes Back” of animated mammals and martial arts epics.Darker and scarier than the original “Kung Fu Panda”, Kung Fu Panda 2 took the happy tale of a bouncy black-and-white furball, added traumatic layers of backstory, and climaxed with a startling revelation of parental identity. Despite a long-overdue family reunion, it’s a pleasure to report that “Kung Fu Panda 3” is much more than the mere franchise equivalent of “Return of the Jedi.” Emotionally, dramatically and perhaps most of all visually (it’s worth seeing in 3D), this delightful movie is almost as generously proportioned as its cuddly hero, restoring a happy sense of completeness to the trilogy at the end making it seem as if everything is finally in place. Animated sequels don’t usually have the best track record, but 2011’s Kung Fu Panda 2 was an exception to that rule, in my opinion. Not only did it capture the action and humor of the first movie but also built on the mythos and told a new and exciting story. Thankfully, Kung Fu Panda 3 follows in the sequel’s footsteps and proves that the series still has plenty “skadoosh” left to offer. Meanwhile, the reliably game Jack Black is back as the voice of Po, and he is, as always, the heart and soul of this movie. Not surprisingly, some of the biggest laughs come from him, along with his character’s expressions. Granted, Po faces many of the same challenges he supposedly overcame in Kung Fu Pandas 1 and 2, some scenes felt redundant as a result. That said, there’s a lot of new stuff in this movie too. All in all I give this movie a big thumbs up and pray that DreamWorks leaves this complete trilogy alone.
- Yohann Mathew