Third time’s the charm



A still from "Kung Fu Panda 3." (DreamWorks Animation)


Eight years after the first “Kung Fu Panda” movie, the third, and possibly final, movie of the franchise landed in theaters on Jan. 29. Yes, this film happened -— and I reviewed it.

Po the Panda (Jack Black) must once again defend the Valley from evil in the form of Kai (J.K. Simmons) who’s escaped from the Spirit World to reign terror upon the mortal realm.

Along the way, Po meets his father, Li Shang (Bryan Cranston) and continues on his path of learning who he really is.

Following in the footsteps of two impressively well-done movies, “Kung Fu Panda 3” had some big shoes to fill. And fill them,it certainly did.  The film continues the visually pleasing, fast-paced, Matrix-style martial arts that’s one of the high points of the trilogy. The other high point is  the storyline.

While it’s nothing groundbreaking in storytelling, it’s pulled off so satisfyingly that it connects all three of the movies in a very rewarding way. It’s not just three separate movies made for cash grabs, but actual time and thought is put into the story that is being told.

Yes, there is a good chunk of production time between each of the “Kung Fu Panda” movies, but when they do come out, they are worth watching because effort was put into making actually good movies.

There are talks of three more movies to follow this one, but if this was to be the final one, that would be totally fine; it ends on such a solid note that leaves it open for more, but at the same time it closes the door on all that’s come before in the previous two movies.

While action and story are big plusses for the film, there are a number of new side characters that are really nothing more than one-note jokes. Thankfully, these characters never become overbearing or needlessly expanded upon.

Overall, as mentioned before, “Kung Fu Panda 3” is a great third act in the animal martial arts action comedy series.