Kung Fu Panda 3
Up until now, our chubby panda pal Po has been sitting pretty. After all, he's come into his own when it comes to kung fu. He's the Dragon Warrior leader of the Furious Five—aka Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Crane and Viper. And he's the dumpling-eating champion of the whole Valley of Peace.
But it's always when you're sitting pretty that an ugly storm starts to brew. And pandas do not like storms. (Unless they're snowstorms, of course. Then they just like to play in the powder.) Po's beloved instructor, Master Shifu, now wants him to step up and start taking on the role of teacher. And ... that's not going so well. In fact, the Furious Five may need a few days to heal up after his last session of, uh, instruction.
Also, to Po's great surprise, a stranger has shown up in town to challenge his dumpling-eating title. And this isn't just any stranger.
It's another panda.
A panda searching for his lost son.
A panda who just happens to look exactly like an older version of Po. ("It's like looking in a fat mirror!")
While Po is trying to wrap his brain around the idea that there are other pandas in the world—not to mention that this one might actually be his long lost dad—there's another little something going on that he's totally oblivious to. In another spiritual dimension, a long forgotten kung fu master named Kai—a blade-wielding warlord yak of tremendous strength—has been challenging all the past masters and stealing away their chi powers with each victory. In fact, at this very moment Kai is in the process of facing off with the venerated Master Oogway and snatching up his chi.
Once that happens, Kai will have enough power to cross back into the land of the living. He'll threaten the world with his magical chi-powered Jade Army. And he'll come hunting for the only one who could possibly stop him: the long-foretold Dragon Warrior!
Of course, that particular prophesied one is currently wondering if there's time for another bowl of dumplings. I mean, surely he hasn't been eating up to his potential.
Po learns of his mother's sacrifice when he was a boy, leading killers away to save him. And Po ends up following her sacrificial example, putting his life on the line to pull a villain away from a village full of innocents.
Po takes steps to make his newfound biological father proud of him. His adopted dad, Mr. Ping, though, tries to make it clear that he is already extremely proud of his son. Naturally, Mr. Ping at first feels a bit jealous of Po's new familial relationship. But eventually Ping (a goose) makes it clear that he's learned to appreciate Li. "Having you in Po's life doesn't mean less for me," he tells the elder panda. "It means more for Po." And, indeed, when the two dads rally together, they're able to support their boy in a better way than either would have been able to do by himself.
Chi is an Eastern spirituality concept defined as the energy that flows through every living thing. And it's made clear that the mastery of it requires a mastery of self. It's only when Po can come to grips with who he is—his own strengths and weaknesses—that he's able to stand up against Kai in magical ways. Though the spirit world where Master Oogway and other past masters reside is never clearly defined, it's presented as a heaven-like realm that is buoyed and powered by chi.
A ribbon dancer named Mei Mei winkingly flirts with Po.
Kung fu battles abound, of course, as the powerful Kai and his army of life-sized Jade Warriors attack Po, the Furious Five, Master Shifu and a village of pandas. In the course of the battles, characters are pummeled and battered about with kicks and punches. Some have their chi drained away by Kai's magical chains (transforming them into small jade pendants). Kai smashes and destroys things with the large blades connected to the end of his chains. Po and Kai face off in a magical battle that destroys buildings and large rock-like structures.
With all this high-flying thumping and smashing, though, no one is stabbed or killed. An old panda woman is repeatedly bonked on the head in a running joke.
Crude or Profane Language
Two or three exclamations of "oh my gosh." Name-calling includes “fools” and “loser.”
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Toilet-humor gags include an excited Po admitting that he just "peed" himself a little, and a fearful goose quickly lays eggs. Characters are thumped in the crotch, and Po cries out that his "tenders" are stung when accidentally pouring hot pepper in his bath. There’s lots of sloppy, slurping eating and spewing going on. Li lies to Po (in an effort to keep him safe). Po and his father play with and break ancient artifacts they're not supposed to touch. Young pandas cheat while playing a game.
By the time you reach No. 3 in a series of popular kid's pics, you're apt to have your film formula figured out. With the mystic tales of a put-upon Dragon Warrior named Po, well, that's certainly the case. And for the most part, that's a wisecrack-whipping-dumpling-downing positive.
As in past entries, the goofball, underachieving panda protagonist has a lot more than dumplings dumped on his plate. He has to persevere, figure out his strengths and the strengths of others, and encourage kid viewers to grow into the good guys they should be.
The pic also encouragingly wrestles with the idea of our kung fu hero being reunited with his panda dad. And as Po strives to balance—like an overloaded platter of dumplings—this newfound relationship with that of his adopted goose pops, there are some nice statements made about the potential strength and fierce love of adoptive and blended families.
On top of all that, Po's latest cad-kapowing caper is out and out great to look at. The film's elegant design and eye-pleasing artwork—from the mountainside panda hideaway to the mystic floating-rock spirit world—are sights well deserving of a set of 3-D glasses.
So beyond all the roundhouse kicks and jade arrows that fly through the air with a light, not-quite-threatening feel, it's that yin-yang spirit world stuff that will probably leave parents feeling the most concerned. And there does seem to be an extra dollop of it this go-round with the reappearance of the deceased Master Oogway and bad guy Kai's capturing of magical chi powers.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Voices of Jack Black as Po; J.K. Simmons as Kai; Bryan Cranston as Li; Angelina Jolie as Tigress; Dustin Hoffman as Shifu; Jackie Chan as Monkey; Seth Rogen as Mantis
Alessandro Carloni ( ), Jennifer Yuh ( Kung Fu Panda 2)
20th Century Fox
January 29, 2016
June 28, 2016