Kung Fu Panda is one of those series of movies that knows a good thing when it works. Each one stays on a path, where our hero Po, voiced by the perfectly cast Jack Black, is forced to work within his own limitations and fears in order to grow as a person, er, panda.
The third in the series finds us in the Spirit World with Master Oogway, who you may remember from the first movie. He was the turtle who ran the show before disappearing into the oneness of the universe, leaving Dustin Hoffman’s, Shifu, a red panda, to take over training in the Jade Palace, and whip Po into shape. Oogway is enjoying his eternity floating through space a when he is approached by his old nemesis Kai, a Yak, who was banished to the spirit world when he tried to take the power of Chi from a Panda Village high in the mountains (Yes, Pandas it’s part of the plot) He steals Oogway’s Chi, turning him into a small jade figure he keeps on his belt. Turns out Kai’s power comes from the fact that he has taken the Chi from all the other Kung fu masters in the spirit world which turns them all into jade and that he can control as his own little army. His only task now is to return to the mortal world where he will take the Chi of all the mortal masters and rule all. Meanwhile in the mortal world, Po, is told his training has advanced and he will now have to be the teacher to his friends, Tigress, Monkey, Mantess, Viper, and Crane and Master Shifu will step back. This is where we get into the main lesson of the movie. Po is so afraid of failing as a teacher that of course, he fails as a teacher.
Po discovers another Panda, voice by Bryan Cranston. In one of the movies great bits each informs the other that they have respectively lost their son/father as the village looks on as they both remain clueless about the fact that they could be related, for just long enough for it to be funny. Once they realize the truth it starts us off on our main journey. To find out more Po travels with his father to a secret Panda Village, (Yes that Panda Village) to meet his people, er pandas. While he is there Kai arrives in the mortal world and takes the Chi of most of his friends leaving him with Tigress and his Panda family. The lesson arrives home when he must teach his panda family to be an army and conquer his own fears in the process.
The end result of the movie is much the same kind of lesson we are used to from the first two movies, which is not a bad thing. It is very sweet and offers us a lot to choose from as far as what we walk away with; feeling good about yourself, getting over your fears, or telling a lie for the right reasons. That being said I don’t think this movie holds up quite to the extent of the first two. It is really enjoyable, but at this point, it feels like we have seen it before. That being said, the lessons it imparts are great for the whole family, kids will walk away happy, and parents will be touched. In this world where things have recently been so mean, Kung-Fu Panda remains a simple, kind, and silly place to go for a story, it is a little violent, a lot funny, but perfect if you want an honest grin on your face.
Deals wit being abandoned, family, and confidence