January 29, 2016

Kung Fu Panda 3

If only this was snow

Grade: C
Director:  Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh
Starrings the voices of: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Bryan Cranston and Kate Hudson
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Some sense of déjà vu is inevitable whenever a film series reaches its third installment. But the sameness of Kung Fu Panda 3 betrays its function as an easy money grab. Start with its release date: the film sneaks into the graveyard late January, as opposed to the previous Kung Fu Panda movies, which opened at or near summer. Kung Fu Panda 3’s pedigree and animated appeal will likely earn it a healthy box office return. But like any video featuring a frolicking panda, it’s less charming the more you watch it.

Po the Panda (Jack Back) must again overcome nagging self-doubt to defeat the same sort of all-powerful villain he faced in the previous two films. This time it’s Kai (J.K. Simmons), an ancient spirits who captures the chi of former master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), then departs the Spirit Realm to steal the powers of other kung fu masters including Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the rest of the Furious Five. Only Tigress (Angelina Jolie) escapes to find Po, now living with his long-lost biological father (Bryan Cranston) and the rest of the surviving panda clan.

First, Po had to earn the rank of Dragon Warrior, then he had to achieve “inner peace.” This go around, Po must master chi, which apparently requires 30 years of silent meditation until it doesn’t, and only comes from deep internal examination until it’s just some glowing power radiating from panda paws. Snifu tells Po that finding chi requires more than mere punching and kicking, yet it appears chi, well, just makes Po better at punching and kicking.

The quality of animation for Kung Fu Panda 3 is impressive, and the witty, inventive martial-arts sequences remain the series’ hallmark. The setting expands from the hyper-realistic version of China into the more surreal, luminous Spirit Realm.

But the jokes remain the same, from fat Po to Mr. Ping’s noodle fetish. But mostly, some character executes a spectacular action flourish, only to pose and then break character for some wry aside. Rinse, repeat, cash the check.

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