NEWBIES: If this is your first trip here (welcome!), here’s the QT on what these reviews are.
THIS WEEK: THIS WEEK: After five years, everyone’s favorite animated Chinese black-and-white bear returns with his animal warrior pals to help defeat a menace from the Spirit Realm who threatens to take away everyone’s Chi (think “The Force” thousands of years before George Lucas) and finds himself—and some relatives—in the process.
Written by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger. Directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh.
Unexpected and funny twist to the usual Dreamworks opening animation. Love that kinda stuff.
The cast is back! Jack Black, Seth Rogen, David Cross, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, James “Seinfeld’s Chinese Restaurant” Fong, Lucy Liu and even Dustin Hoffman reprise their roles as the beloved characters from the first two. As a bonus, Brian “Breaking Bad, Malcolm Dad!” Cranston plays a long lost relative of Po’s and J.K. “J. Jonah Jameson for Farmer’s Insurance” Simmons voices the main baddy, Kai. All do a great job. Even Angelina’s kids show up to voice some little ones.
Gorgeous animation you’d expect from Dreamworks. Not just the super realistic grass and fur, but the interesting mixture of some cool graphic styles (2D, Asian and such) seen in the first two films, for flashbacks, historical sequences and spirit realm stuff.
As before, some genuine laugh-out-loud moments for both kids and adults. Plenty of slapstick and puns. There’s a repeated upchuck joke but it’s not graphic. As usual, no swearing. (Though it’d be funny to hear outtakes, like, “Where are the dumplings? I’m %$#@ hungry!!”)
We get to see a lot of pandas of all (round) shapes, sizes and ages, of both genders.
The little ones are, as you’d expect, adorable. But not sickeningly so.
Panda lady ribbon dancer! Not my type but another fat panda would be gaga. Other characters are fun.
Straightforward, easy to follow plot. Good suspense build, fake outs and such.
Po actually makes more progress and grows while still being a lovable man-child doofus.
The scene inside the Jade Palace playing with the artifacts was a favorite of mine.
Positive message for everyone—obvious but not preachy. Great job of making everyone use their own talents/abilities constructively to help fight the battle. And thankfully, no PC “diversity” crap either (they’re all animals so that base is already covered!)
No gag reel. No end button! Not even one during the main credits like most animated flicks do. Bummer.
Technically there’s a bunch of child endangerment in the battle scenes, but because they’re pandas, I guess no one will notice or care.
If you got to a theater, be prepared to endure little ones giggling and chatting. Volume and frequency depends on the quality of the parenting.
Shifu gets kind of downgraded; not the Yodamaster he was earlier.
With a lot of focus on the pandas, the characters of Po’s fighting pals play a much smaller role so if you’re going to see Monkey, for example, you won’t get as much as previous films. But not a biggie.
The mystical stuff near the end may seem a bit too goofy or hard to explain for some.
If you liked the previous two KUNG FU PANDAs, there’s more to like here. Not better or worse than the second one from what I remember. If you hated any of the others, this won’t convert you. But if you haven’t seen them and are curious, you could still watch this and not be lost (though I recommend seeing at least the second one to get some background on the characters and their relation to each other). Definitely family friendly fun, but I didn’t see a reason to pay for the giant screen unless you’re a major fan. Plus if you watch it at home you can freeze frame and get a good look at all the pandas!
P.S.: Put down that dumpling bowl and get some ORIGINAL ART! Get a commission from Pascale of anything or anyone ya want. Way better than fighting an ancient warrior out to rule the world. Just tell Craig here!
DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of Wednesday’s Heroes, Mike Pascale, pandas, kung fu masters, ancient warriors of the spirit (or any other) realm, or birds with restaurants. Bru would prefer beer with his dumplings, please. And chicken wings. And more beer!