Kung Fu Panda 3 Blu-ray Review
The KUNG FU PANDA franchise has been a continuous surprise since the robust Panda first burst onto the scene back in 2008. The affection that the audience feels for Po (Jack Black) stems from his child-like wonder and good natured spirit when it comes to being a kung fu master or as the movies call him, the dragon warrior. KUNG FU PANDA 3 is another heartwarming entry into the franchise. Despite a few hiccups, it’s a pleasant tale worthy of the affectionate character we’ve grown to love.
For KUNG FU PANDA 3 to keep up with the personal growth of Po, we’re introduced to Li Shan (Cranston), Po’s real father. In previous films it was Mr. Ping (James Hong), a goose, who clearly wasn’t his dad, but for years has taken the panda under his wing. This creates some emotional conflict for Ping, but not so much for Po. Po’s more or less grappling with who he is. He believes he’s the dragon warrior, but confused about everything else. He’s expected to be “the” kung fu master that leads all others. He’s spent most of life looking up at heroes and no actually accepting the role of being one.
It’s a common theme in the KUNG FU PANDA franchise. Po is always questioning his own self-worth in the face of adversity. But unlike previous times where it’s been about strength, this time it’s more about whether he has the emotional and spiritual physicality to overcome. Because of this, Po goes with his real father to a hidden panda village to discover his roots and where he comes from. While all this happens, KUNG FU PANDA 3 introduces the spirit realm, the existence of chi, and the villain, Kai (Simmons).
Without becoming too deep and shrouded within its own spiritual mumbo jumbo, KUNG FU PANDA 3 avoids explaining what exactly the spirit realm is. We can surmise it’s where kung fu masters go, but we stop short of stating it’s the destination after a master dies. It’s difficult for a kid’s movie to open up and reveal too much about life and death, especially when having to avoiding stepping on religious eggshells.
Kai’s main purpose as the villain is his return to the mortal realm to steal chi, the natural energy that permeates through all beings. When he steals the chi of kung fu masters, he turns them into emerald charms on his belt. He can then call upon their chi to do his bidding, much like a puppet master. The true power of harnessing chi, as Kai believes, stems from pandas understanding of chi. Kai’s main goal is to take Po’s chi and go after the panda community that Po is just coming to understand.
As you can tell, KUNG FU PANDA 3 has too much going on, more so than previous movies. It dilutes the emotional core of the movie a little when introducing so many different concepts around Po. Holding it altogether though, ironically enough, is Po. Black’s uncanny voice, spontaneous joy and fun with the character, provide the majority of laughs, soul, and entertainment. Having Cranston voice his dad is icing on top as Cranston gets out his inner Hal (the dad from MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE) and yucks it up with Black.
Sadly though, Simmons takes a back seat since his villain never really rises to the levels of previous theatrical KUNG FU PANDA villains. His menace seems to be on a smaller scale and his personality is devoid of purpose. He seems more like a secondary villain in a KUNG FU PANDA TV movie. Everything else though works well and you could almost argue that the movie could have been entertaining solely on the internal conflict of Po and the balancing his two fathers.
While I doubt the KUNG FU PANDA franchise is far from over, it’s nice to see that the folks at Dreamworks are at least willing to give us an original piece of entertainment for the entire family can enjoy instead of a miserable and grueling cash grab. It’s certainly not the quality KUNG FU PANDA we’ve come to expect, but if they can bounce back and deliver on a fourth movie, we may just come to appreciate the third as segue towards greater things.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) While not quite on par with Disney/Pixar, Dreamworks does manage to show off a visual style unique to this world, combining the visuals of MULAN with SAMURAI JACK.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The music isn’t this movie’s strong suit, but every once and a while you’ll pick up on specific soundtrack beds unique for particular dialogue scenes. It shows a fondness for matching music with the emotion and feeling of every scene.
Everybody Loves a Panda Party (2:34): The panda community sings and dances to “Kung Fu Fighting”. I could have done without this.
Everybody Loves a Panda Party – Karaoke with Po (2:34): The same feature as above, but, just as stated, its karaoke-style.
Po’s Posters of Awesomeness (3:30): Po talks over a visual display of the posters decorating his father’s noodle shop. I’m not sure if these are actually various posters scattered throughout the background over this trilogy or not.
Panda Paws (2:23): This feature has Mei Mei (Kate Hudson), one of the random panda’s populating the community, in a talent show audition.
Make a Panda Party Paper Pal (3:38): An insert that comes with the blu-ray that shows you how to create different character origami.
Play Like a Panda (4:44): Directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni discuss their time at a nature reserve to observe baby pandas for inspiration. It’s an adorable feature.
The Origin of “Skadoosh” (2:21): This isn’t the true origin of “Skadoosh” nor does it even tell you the fake origin of the word. This is more of a feature tailored for small children.
Faux Paws (7:50): This is the deleted scenes features. The director’s intro the three deleted scenes, discussing why they were taken out.
Gallery of Epic Artfulness (2:28): A series of still images from the movie with an auto play option or manual option.