“Grab Destiny by the Dumplings”
Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni
Starring Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, JK Simmons and Bryan Cranston
In the Spirit Realm, Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) encounters an old enemy named Kai (Simmons), who steals Oogway’s chi and uses it to break back into the mortal realm. Intent on annihilating Oogway’s legacy, Kai sets out to capture the chi of every kung fu master in China. Po learns that only a master of chi can defeat Kai, and fortunately his long lost father Li Shan (Cranston) turns up to teach him the ancient secrets of the panda chi masters.
Po learns to be a panda, but their chi powers are long lost. When Kai comes for him, therefore, he must become a teacher and train the other pandas to fight. When even a panda army proves too little, Po has to contemplate making the ultimate sacrifice.
What’s wrong with it?
The middle section in particular leans heavily on its fat panda jokes, even by Kung Fu Panda standards. It also throws in a potential love interest in Kate Hudson’s Mei Mei, but that doesn’t go anywhere.
What’s right with it?
Once more, the film combines amazing action with likable leads and a just-deep-enough bit of philosophising.
While not quite as cool as the second movie’s villain Lord Shen, Kai has a truly kick ass signature tune.
How bad is it really?
It’s really damn good. It’s the third entry in a franchise about a fat panda doing kung fu, and it would be good by any standard.
Best bit (if such there is)?
There’s a lot to love, but more than anything it’s a delight to have Duk Kim’s Oogay back in the house with his particular brand of laid back wisdom.
What’s up with…?
- The pandas’ relaxed attitude to danger? Given they were hunted to near extinction, one might expect them to belt and braces it and have at least some defence training on top of the village’s concealment.
Production values – Still gorgeous. 1
Dialogue and performances – Once more, the performances are excellent, although the pandas’ dialogue is about 80% fat jokes. 5
Plot and execution – The story is fairly straightforward, perhaps more so than the preceding films. The first big twist – that the pandas don’t actually retain the secret of chi mastery – is pretty predictable, as is the outcome of Po’s planned alpha strike, but the denouement is more of a surprise. 4
Randomness – Mei Mei is thrown in as a potential love interest for Po, then deflected onto the biggest, dopiest panda in the village. It’s a bit pointless. 3
Waste of potential – For the first film in most franchises, this would be excellent; for the third film in any it’s superb. 0