Hollywood has never been afraid of going to the well once too often. That is how we wind up with something like “Kung Fu Panda 3,” a not-terrible, but completely unnecessary sequel in an animated franchise that probably should have stopped at “Kung Fu Panda 2.”
But there is money to be made, so exhausted creative reserves be damned! We are following the continuing adventures of Po (Jack Black), a clumsy panda who becomes an unlikely kung fu warrior.
This time around Po, who had been adopted by a goose named Ping (James Hong), meets his biological father Li (Bryan Cranston). Li convinces Po to come with him to a secret panda village where they will teach him to master the power of “chi,” which is convenient since an evil bull from the sprit realm named Kai (J.K. Simmons) has returned to Earth to steal the chi of all the kung fu masters.
When chi is described, it is explained to be an awful lot like the Force; however, it only makes sense for them to rip off “Star Wars” considering George Lucas was basically ripping off eastern religions when he wrote his script. The circle is complete.
More than anything, “Kung Fu Panda 3” will be noted as one of the most impressive wastes of an all-star cast ever put on screen. Most are holdovers from earlier films and they are all relegated to only a handful of lines, which I suppose isn’t all that bad for a day’s work for the likes of Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, David Cross and Kate Hudson. I think poor Lucy Liu says only four words.
I can’t hate on this movie too much, though, because it is a perfectly acceptable piece of time-killing entertainment, which is all most parents are looking for.
The movie nicely handles the subject of adoptive families and biological families coming together along with the standard theme of believing in yourself even when nobody else does, which runs throughout the franchise.
But again, any spark or originality this series had has been wrung out by this point and is really of no value to anyone other than a desperate parent looking for 90 minutes of non-sensibility-offending distraction for their kids.
“Kung Fu Panda” has served admirably on the front lines of family entertainment for the better part of a decade, but now is probably the time for it to retire to that great dojo in the sky.
“Kung Fu Panda 3” is rated PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor.