Back to the Drawing Board – Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

A bit of a let down for me.  So Po (Jack Black) is back, and there is a new threat to the kingdom.  He is a bit distracted, as his biological father (Bryan Cranston) has just walked back into his life, but he nevertheless needs to master his chi so he can once again save the day.  I was actually really excited for this, believe it or not.  The first Kung Fu Panda is amazing, and it is still one of my favorite animated films to date.  DreamWorks may not always bring their A-game, but when they do, they can be right on the same level as Pixar, and that was the movie you could always cite as an example.  The second movie was pretty good as well; they didn’t have a whole lot as far as a new story goes, but they really upped the ante in the animation department.  With the third movie, the animation is the best of the series, but the writing is the worst, which disappointing.

1What do you do when you’ve run out of story ideas for a running story?  You either get somebody pregnant or you bring in a long lost family member.

It’s all too apparent that they’ve run out of ideas on where to take this series, as all they are really trying to do here is recreate that first movie.  For one thing, it is getting too crowded with characters that have very little to do.  The Furious Five are still here, and they are given hardly any voice work at all.  It’s not like these are small names, either, this is David Cross, Lucy Liu, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan and Seth Rogen that we are talking about, and they are background characters in this story at best.  Another thing that I have problems with is backward character development.  It is made very clear that Po has been doing this for quite some time now, and yet when they get to a simple combat sequence early on in the movie, he is just as buffoonish as he was in the first movie, if not more so.

2And with this movie, there’s even more of him to go around in the form of this Panda village.

This is harmless, but it could have been way better, and if I am being honest with myself, this did not meet my expectations.  The reason why it fails all comes back to the writing.  This is very thinly written, and almost the entirety of the jokes featured here are silly sight gags that didn’t have much thought behind them.  If there ever was a movie that needed a punch-up writer, this is the one.  I still do give it credit, because the animation is inspired, but if they want to take this series any further than this installment, they are going to have to do something drastic with the story line.

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) ***

– Critic for Hire


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