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Title: Kung Fu Panda 3

Movie: :3.5stars:
Video: :5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:

HTS Overall Score:87

Who would have thought that 2008’s smash hit “Kung Fu Panda” would make it this far. Once upon a time Dreamworks studio was just a fledgling animation studio, with their claims to fame being “Prince of Egypt” and “The Road to El Dorado”. “Shrek” was the first time the studio had something that could ALMOST rival the greats like “Disney” and “Pixar”, but it wasn’t long before they really fine-tuned their style and released “Kung Fu Panda”, a moderate hit, and then the wildly popular “How to Train Your Dragon”. At this point the studio was now recognized as a SERIOUS animation studio, and was given the budgets and tools that they needed to play with the big boys. “Kung Fu Panda 2” was ALMOST as good as the 2008 predecessor, and was a really enjoyable entry into the franchise’s heavily Eastern film. Now, almost 8 years later we have the third installment. A fun, but somewhat flawed, movie that acts as the bookend to the philosophical journey of the clumsy panda, Po.

Chubby little Po (Jack Black) has risen from the ranks of a relative nobody, to becoming the savior of all China after becoming the dragon warrior. A legendary warrior who has been foretold for hundreds of years. This time Po is back in Black (pun intended) and eating himself to death while kicking butt and taking names. However, this time he will be fighting something greater than just a regular mortal warrior. Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kum) has gone to the spirit world, but in his absence a new threat has come to light in the form of a dead warrior named Kai (J.K. Simmons). Kai has been trapped in the spirit world for 500 years, but has been learning to harness the power of chi, and has absorbed all of the chi energy from the dead masters that have been populating the spirit realm for the last 500 years. After absorbing the incredibly powerful Master Oogway, Kai now has the ability to come back to the mortal realm and wreak vengeance on everyone.

Destroying everything in his path, Kai makes his way to Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and the rest of the 5 legendary warriors. Simultaneously, Po has just found his birth father, Li (played by Bryan Cranston), after we saw at the end of “Kung Fu Panda 2” the truth about there being Pandas left in the world. Li returns to bring Po back to the Panda village and reunite with his son, but there seems to be something that he’s hiding. A secret that may stunt Po’s growth in learning how to master the art of Chi before Master Kai ruins the entire world. Along the way Po once again learns something about who he really is, and beings the transformation into the true legend that he was always destined to be.

OThe overarching lessons of the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise has always been about accepting yourself for who you really are and finding out just WHO you really are inside. This common thread is followed in the latest installment, with Po having learnt about his past in “Kung Fu Panda 2”, and now has to learn about his future. Just who he is in the world and why he was chosen by Master Oogway to begin with these long years ago. There’s some enjoyable themes in this entry, especially in relation to the fantastic J.K. Simmons being Master Kai. Simmons has a knack for making memorable characters, and Kai certainly fits that bill. A giant beast that channels Chi power with a pair of bladed chains for weapons. Then combining his powerful and impressively nuanced voice acting and you have a winning combination. Sadly the furious 5, Vipress (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross) and Tigress (Angelina Jolie) are mostly sidelined for the majority of the movie. We get a few minutes with Crane and Mantis, but the rest of the time it’s really only Tigress who once again acts as Po’s rock to lean on. I’m not sure whether its budget related, or time related (only 95 minutes to fit in a ton of characters), but they really feel left out here. Cranston is always a blast to watch on screen, but oddly enough he feels “off” here. I know, I can’t believe I’m saying it since I don’t think Cranston CAN turn in a bad performance, but he wasn’t the show stealer that I was expecting. His style of acting just didn’t fit with the rest of the film and I’m not sure exactly why.

“Kung Fu Panda 3” is a fun movie, but it is always heavily flawed, as the first and third act with the fight between Kai are the highlights of the film. The instruction time in Panda village is where the movie starts to stumble and the cheesy bits with a “we can do it together!!” mentality feeling awkward and slower paced than they should have been. I did love that we got to see some of the inner workings behind Po’s big “Skidoosh” finishing move and his ascension to finally being a heroic figure instead of complete comedy is very satisfying. It is not a perfect movie, but “Kung Fu Panda 3” manages to still be a rather entertaining kids movie.


Rated PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor

Video :5stars:
Yum, yum YUM! Dreamworks Pictures has always had great video quality, but their crown jewels like the “Kung Fu Panda” series and the “How to Train your Dragon” franchise has always been treated with kid gloves, and “Kung Fu Panda 3” is no different. The luscious animation is gorgeously fluid, with intricate detailing in just about every frame. Watch Po’s fur ripple as he talks, or the flowing waterfall in the Panda village. Everything just blends together seamlessly, whether it be the 3D animation, or the 2D style of traditional Chinese drawings that intertwine their way into the tale. The animation is picture perfect, with no signs of banding, crush, or macroblocking to mar the sumptuous landscape. Blacks are deep and inky, with the colors bright and multicolored. Deeply saturated jade green dominates the picture, with more natural shades of grass green and blue water mingled in. the spirit realm flows with a golden honey color that just oozes from every poor, and while extremely bright, doesn’t take away any of the detail in the animated picture. Simply flawless.

Audio :4.5stars:
Dreamwork’s pictures 7.1 DTS-HD MA track (sadly no Atmos or DTS:X even though the film screams for it) is nothing short of perfection. Or at least near perfection. Hans Zimmer adds his personal touch to the film’s dynamic score and the track itself is a true joy to listen to. Dialog is strong and clear, with no sounds of distortion or imbalance with the high flying martial arts action, and the surround activity is impressively powerful. The sounds of battle between Kai and the rest of the mortal realm reverberates through each and every channel, adding in an immersive feeling that permeates the entire sonic experience. LFE is tight and powerful, but interestingly enough NOT as over the top powerful as I would have assumed. There is raw power and deep bass, but it is blended a bit more fastidiously than some of the previous films in the series. I did notice that I had to crank my AVR up about 5 DB’s more than I usually do, but I didn’t notice any odd effects when boosting the volume on my receiver. An all-around amazing track.

Extras :3stars:

• Everybody Loves a Panda Party
• Po’s Posters of Awesomeness
• Panda Paws
• Make a Panda Party Paper Pal
• Play Like a Panda
• The Origin of “Skadoosh”
• Faux Paws Deleted Scenes

Overall: :4.5stars:

“Kung Fu Panda 3” is not AS enjoyable as the first two films in the series, but it still manages to have enough heartwarming moments, and enjoyable action sequences to make it a fun watch. I’m honestly curious whether or not they are going to continue on with the series, especially with the slightly waning quality over the last couple films. I would rather them go out on a high note instead of schlepping the series around until it is no longer fun for anyone. The animation in this set is flawless, the movie fun, and the extras pretty decent, and of course a wildly energetic audio experience making it a fun movie to pick up if you’re already a fan of the series. Recommended for a watch.

Additional Information:

Starring: Jack Black, Lucy Liu, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman
Directed by: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Written by: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, French (Quebec) DD 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch DTS 5.1
Studio: Fox
Rated: PG
Runtime: 95 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: June 28th, 2016

Buy Kung Fu Panda 3 On Blu-ray at Amazon

Recommendation: Recommended for a Watch

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