Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure
Directed by: Alessandro Carloni & Jennifer Yuh
Starring: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie
In his third adventure Po (Jack Black) finds his father, Li (Bryan Cranston), but the reunion is cut short by the arrival of Kai (J. K. Simmons), an ancient warrior who was banished to the spirit world. Kai is determined to steal the chi of Po who is destined to defeat him. Po’s only chance of defeating him is to learn an ancient panda technique of channeling chi to return Kai to the spirit world.
Po’s journey throughout the film is an interesting one, as he’s forced to reassess who he is in light of discovering where he comes from. For the most part every scene of the film is full of the typical laughs you would expect from the franchise. However, in a few quieter moments, Jack Black is able to show the struggles Po faces as he tries to figure out what being a panda actually means, while also figuring out if he can be a teacher. His journey has a big payoff in the film’s final showdown as he displays the true power of the dragon warrior, which has been teased since the original.
Bryan Cranston is a great addition as Po’s father, trying to reconnect with a son he hasn’t seen since birth. Cranston is able to bring the fun in the big comedy moments but is also capable of presenting the great pain the father feels, as best evidenced in the scene where he tells Po about his mother. Li also has an interesting storyline with Po’s adopted father Mr Ping (a goose, as played by James Hong), who’s worried that he will be put aside in favour of Po’s real father. It leads to an interesting dynamic as the two learn that they can both be fathers to Po in their own way. The villain, Kai, is an effective threat, his powers to turn even the strongest of kung fu masters into jade zombies putting Po at a disadvantage from the start. Kai represents the dangers of chi, being a creature who’s become obsessed with gaining as much power as he can. Imagine Dragon’s ‘I’m So Sorry’ is reworked to make a catchy and effective theme for Kai, heralding his arrival.
The film embraces the silliness of its concept with open arms, stretching things even further during its later moments when Po has to train an army of adorable pandas how to fight. Visual gags and slapstick are used to great effect, to create a fun family friendly film that is sure to entertain parents as well.
It has been announced that this isn’t the last we’ll see of Po and friends, with three more sequels on the horizon. Normally I would be opposed to the idea of milking a franchise in this way, but if they keep the quality of the jokes high another trilogy is sure to delight.