Po is a panda. Not just any panda, but one who has mastered the art of kung fu. In this installment of the Kung Fu Panda series, Po embarks on a journey far more personal than the previous two. He wants to understand what it truly means to be a panda.
Walking into Kung Fu Panda 3, one expects light-hearted gags and entertaining fight sequences with a gorgeous backdrop of Chinese inspired scenery. Not only did the film meet those expectations, it also gave audiences a story of self-discovery and acceptance of one’s intersectionality that any child of immigrants, mixed race, or different racial background from their parents can connect to.
The plot is rather predictable, but is executed really well. Kai (J.K. Simmons), a Chi-obsessed yak that was banished to the spirit realm years ago, escapes after stealing the Chi of Grand Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim). In his lust for more, Kai decides to steal the Chi of every kung fu master in China. Only Po (Jack Black) can stop him, if he is able to become a master of true Chi. After being reunited with his biological father, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), Po is taken to a hidden panda village to reconnect with his panda roots and master the Chi he needs to defeat Kai.
With each film they do, Dreamworks Animation seems to want to outdo their last. Based on the trailers leading up to Kung Fu Panda 3, one could already tell that it would be a beautifully animated film. There are many scenes throughout film that force one to gape at and applaud the artistry at work. From the use of color to the film’s cultural inspirations, each decision was well researched and used to elevate the film’s visual experience.
As someone who has spent years studying East Asian history and culture, it was refreshing to see an American production that respects the Chinese culture it is based on and does not confuse it with Japanese or Korean customs. Taking the time to do so only enriches the world seen on screen; hopefully other films will take note.
Due to the film’s intended demographic the comedy may be slightly childish, but its gags still get laughs from audiences of all ages. Unexpectedly, the film’s main drawback comes from its kung fu, or lack there of. The fight sequences are not as intricate as they were in previous installments and seem to be over far too quickly. A little time could have also been spent with the Furious Five.
Nonetheless, the film is great fun and should be seen in the screen possible. Art deserves no less.
Kung Fu Panda 3 was released nationwide on January 29, 2016.