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Review: Kung Fu Panda 3

Any time that a movie features Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons and Dustin Hoffman, it is automatically a three star film, even if the film features only their voices.

So Kung Fu Panda 3 reaches lofty heights immediately, but unfortunately, doesn’t transcend this rating. This is mainly because the film does not utilize the actors in such a way that really speaks to their immense talents. After being so vital in the first two films, Master Shifu (Hoffman) mostly takes this movie off (or at least fades into the background). Cranston is given more to do as Li, the father of Po (Jack Black), a lazy panda, which establishes an interesting conflict with Po’s adopted father Mr. Ping (James Hong).

Sadly, J.K. Simmons plays an extremely generic villain named Kai, who comes from the spirit world and is reduced to being a punchline by Po once he harnesses the power of pandas, what is left of his team and his inner strength. The movie feels like a mix of Batman and other superhero type movies, but never really transcends the genre conventions. Simmons is never able to capture his Terrence Fletcher, and feels like a minor threat.

Furthermore, another new addition is fairly underutilized, as Kate Hudson is never fully fleshed as a panda named Miu Miu, despite being pushed as a potential romantic interest for Po. The incomparable Angelina Jolie is fine as Tigress, but clearly requested that a number of her kids come along, though they are mainly placed in smaller roles and do not distract from the film.

Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh present a fun and constantly self-empowering story, which is a welcome addition to the franchise. It doesn’t do very much to differentiate itself from the previous instalments, but perhaps that is the point. When a film features the voice talents of the established actors listed above, plus David Cross, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, Randall Duk Kim, and yes, even Jean-Claude Van Damme, maybe all that the film needs to be is perfectly fine.

But ultimately, the film produces a positive message about believing in a martial arts discipline, the power of those around us and body image. The proper use of the themes as well as the strength of the voice cast (along with a clean and happy style of animation) leaves Kung Fu Panda 3 as a decent option for the whole family.

[star v=3]