Roly-poly martial-arts hero Po, the bumbling, dumpling-loving panda voiced by Jack Black, returns for his third screen adventure – and he’s as endearingly comical as ever, a winning mix of clumsiness and pluck.
Po’s clumsiness is his predominant characteristic at the start of Kung Fu Panda 3, his tiny mentor, Master Shifu (again voiced by Dustin Hoffman), having decided he is ready to make the next step from warrior to teacher. Predictably, his efforts to train his fellow kung-fu masters, the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie’s Tigress, Jackie Chan’s Monkey, Seth Rogen’s Mantis, Lucy Liu’s Viper and David Cross’s Crane), end in bedlam.
However, a bigger challenge for Po is looming: supernatural villain Kai (JK Simmons) has escaped from the Spirit Realm and is busy plundering the chi from every kung fu master he defeats, bottling their life force in jade amulets on his belt.
Resembling a furious green-eyed yak, he is an even more formidable foe than Po’s last antagonist - Gary Oldman’s power-mad peacock Lord Shen.
Time, then, for Po to find his pluck, with help from his newly discovered biological dad, Li Chan (Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston showing his gentler side), who takes his son to the Panda Village, a mist-shrouded, mountaintop Shangri-La where Po endeavours to put his shaky teaching skills to use by training its tubby inhabitants to develop their own distinctive brand of kung fu.
The ensuing showdown lives up to the series’ hugely enjoyable blend of rumbustious comedy and action. The animation is gorgeous, too, drawing its inspiration from sources as richly diverse as ancient Chinese scrolls and the fantastical landscapes found on Roger Dean’s prog-rock album covers. Roll on Kung Fu Panda 4.
Certificate PG. Runtime 95 mins. Directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni
A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.
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