When you have Jack Black involved in any project, it’s bound to get a boatload of laughter and interject plenty of fun. Throw in a dash of Bryan Cranston, some Angelina Jolie Pitt, and add a handful of Dustin Hoffman and J.K. Simmons, expect some interesting results. Interesting would be the case with the Dreamworks Animation film Kung Fu Panda 3.
It’s kind of crazy to have all these big name stars attached to an animated film, but animation movies has proven to be huge box office successes. Dreamworks has had plenty of success with this genere of films if you look at how well the “Shrek” chain, “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Madagascar,” and “Megamind” has done in the past.
The mere fact this is the third installment in the Kung Fu Panda series also solidifies this fact. Kung Fu Panda 3 is worth taking the kiddies to see this film. It has all the intangibles that young people like: lots of funny, funny moments, a dabble in mystery, the good versus evil plot and family dynamics.
When you have the talents of Black, Jolie Pitt, Simmons, Hoffman and Cranston in your backyard, chances are that project is going to produce something good. Black, of course, brings the wood in making Po, the lovable and affable Giant Panda, come to life with plenty of zing and zap. Po is hilarious with his cutup antics, especially when he encounters Simmons’ sinister bad guy character, Kai.
A warrior with an attitude problem, Kai seeks revenge for being blasted into the netherworld and sets out to destroy the Valley of Peace where Po has been, reluctantly, given the assignment of teacher/master of the village by Master Shifu (Hoffman). The clown that he is, even Po recognizes that he is not ready to tackle that kind of responsibility.
Adding to the twist is the fact that he comes face to face with his long lost father Li (voiced by Cranston), who is more interested in slapping bellies and eating than anything else. Like a jealous parent scorned, Mr. Ping, Po’s adoptive father, has no warm feelings for Li, as he believes that his relationship with his adoptive son is being threatened by the presence of Li.
In the meantime, Kai, the big brawny bull with the raging intent to destroy anything and everything that stands in his reckless path of destruction, goes about his business to do just that, wrecking havoc, stealing souls on the way to the Valley of Peace, where he seeks to snatch all power into his hands.
Finally, when word creeps back to Po and his kick-butt Furious Five martial arts crew that includes the no-nonsense Tigress (Jolie Pitt) and Monkey (Jackie Chan), that there is villain on the loose looking to hose the Valley of Peace, a bit of reality checks in.
But even then it takes Po a while to digest the threat to him and the rest of villagers in the Valley of Peace. He goes to the length of re-uniting with his real father who takes him to the Secret Village of the Pandas, where tranquility and peace reigns supreme. Ah, this is the life for a Giant Panda. Awestruck with his reunion, Po continues his la-la land, self-absorb quest to find himself.
Things get shaken up a bit when a beat up Tigress somehow manages to track down Po and lets him know that he is a wanted man, and that Kai is out to destroy him. Of course, this sets our hero into game-planning mode and to finally take this super villain’s threat as the real deal.
The great thing about Po is that he never takes himself too seriously. Po is about good eating and having a good time. Fighting is the last thing on his mind. Even when he is forced to fight to protect his village, Po has a way of just letting things happen. Live and let live seems to be the mantra that Po is governed by.
Black, at his wittiest best, gives Po the just chill attitude that makes the Giant Panda such a lovable figure. Except to Kai, the supernatural terror who wants nothing more than to rule the land through his intimidating presence. Simmons brings Kai to life with vertical and horizontal ease thanks to that majestic voice he has been gifted with. And at times, Kai is flat-out scary.
But somehow, someway, the magic of Black makes sure that Po offsets the fear of the big, bad bully with a bellyache of funny quickies and one-line liners to save the day. Kung Fu Panda 3 is rated PG.