By Nate Willis, Entertainment Writer
In the third installment of the highly-successful “Kung Fu Panda” series, children and adults alike can expect a continuation of the mind-blowing animation styles, humor that is both kid-friendly and actually hilarious, and a cast of stars that few films can boast. While some college-aged people may roll their eyes at the mention of a kid-friendly animated film, I think the “Kung Fu Panda” series is genuinely unique. DreamWorks actually released two versions of this film: one in Mandarin, with Chinese voice actors, and one in English, with American voice actors.
One of the first things that stands out to me with this franchise is the level of star power they’re able to acquire. Actors involved include: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, J.K. Simmons, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross, and Lucy Liu. With this level of talent, the actors are able to make their characters truly unique. The result is a film with layered characters that each has their own specific quirks. The story is Campbellian in nature, so it feels very familiar, but the distinctive characters make it its own film, which is a noticeably rare trait in modern animated films.
The humor isn’t crude, and there are very few innuendos, but I found myself laughing regardless. As with the first and second films, the self-deprecating, obesity-based humor is prevalent throughout (I mean, come on, the main character is a panda). However, at no point in the film does the freshness of this humor wear off, it simply builds on itself, with a distinct self-awareness that, again, is rare in modern animated films.
What’s significant about the “Kung Fu Panda” films has little to do with the story, but rather what the directors are able to do with it. The plot focuses on Po, the main character, who meets his biological father early on. Naturally, Po’s adoptive father, Mr. Ping, begins to get jealous of this new father-figure. This facet of the film is the primary source of emotional conflict, and, don’t get me wrong, it’s very cheesy, but it doesn’t ever feel overwhelming or forced.
As far as the computer animation goes, I was thoroughly impressed. Co-director Jennifer Yuh Nelson, who directed “Kung Fu Panda 2”, doesn’t shy away from the strong Asian influence that’s prevalent throughout. There are several different styles of animation, but each and every one has its place within this film, culminating in what can only be described as a work of modern art. “Kung Fu Panda 3” is not a parody of classic kung fu films, but rather homage.
Overall, I enjoyed this film for its artistic influences and the talent involved with the voice acting. If you’re a fan of the first two films, or under the age of 13, I have no doubt you’ll thoroughly enjoy this film. If animated films aren’t your thing, then I would recommend seeing something else.
Nate’s Netflix Picks:
- Cruel Intentions
- Sin City
- Johnny English