Chitty, Chitty, Chat, Chat... Do we need another Kung Fu Panda?
Kid's Korner rating: 2 stars*
Kids rating: 2 stars
Parent's Rating: 2 stars
Popcorn, M&Ms, and a large drink...
Roll the film... It seems to be all about Po.
Everything that is old is new again. Imagine for a moment the city of Shangri-La from the classic 1933 novel by James Hilton. A secluded mountainous location where people live in a mystical, harmonious valley that is depicted as an earthly paradise.
Now, imagine this Himalayan utopia being inhabited by pandas. Kung Fu Panda 3 is the origins story of the marital arts expert, Po (Jack Black). After many years of wondering about his heritage, the young panda is introduced to his panda father, Li (Bryan Cranston). They begin a journey to introduce him to his extended family and to find the answers to his unknown past which is found in the secluded panda Shangri-La. Meanwhile, in the spirit realm, a battle is raging between the immortals of Kung Fu past. In an evil plan to exact revenge on the world after 500 years, the villainous Kai (J.K. Simmons) steals the Qi (Chi) or life force of all of the other immortals and travels back to earth to reclaim his position as overlord. Ultimately, the battle lines are drawn between Po and Kai at the panda haven, where the striped community must find their inner power to defeat this immortal enemy.
The animation from this Dreamworks production does continue to go from strength to strength and tantalise the visual senses. Unfortunately, the improvements in the visuals cannot mask the weaknesses in the plot. It goes without saying that Kung Fu Panda 3 is about Po, but what made this franchise appealing at the beginning was the ensemble cast that complements the cuddly central character. As each instalment has been released, the storyline has become a predictable formula that is more ‘Po-centric’. Unfortunately, this element has caused the quality of each subsequent film to suffer. Directors Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh seem to have forgotten that the central character benefits from surrounding their hero with a strong entourage. They do attempt to replace the Furious Five with Po's cuddly relatives, but his furry family members never quite reach the same level of appeal or support of his martial arts friends.
What is baffling with each chapter of Kung Fu Panda is Po’s lack of confidence in his abilities. Not that there is a desire for him to become pompous and arrogant, but his innocence has become implausible. After defending the local village and even the world from some of the worst villains in China’s history, it becomes hard to stomach that he does not develop more assurance in his abilities. He remains the same insecure bear from the original story line and this diminishes the value of each life lesson that is trying to be taught. Jack Black (Goosebumps) may be incapable of expanding his range to do anything more than the same portrayal of the kung fu warrior from film to film, but it seems the real failure lies in the writers failure to provide more depth of character for the wonder bear.
What may cause some parents to hesitate in bringing along their young children to this animated kung fu adventure is the overt presentation of Taoism. The mystical realm continues to be part of this genre and franchise, but this third outing is an overt manifestation of the Eastern belief system. This can be taken in two ways by Mum and Dad, either to see it as a teaching moment with children or a time to treat this film with caution. Either way, the spiritual component is not the key reason to give this third instalment of the Po's adventures a miss, that lies squarely in the predictable and poorly executed story.
Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
What should I be teaching my children about the different faiths from around the world? Kung Fu Panda 3 is an excellent example of a teaching opportunity with children on spiritual matters. It would be worthwhile knowing what your position is on God and to take the time to learn about Taoism before seeing this film with your children. Then take the time to talk with your little ones about the realm that exists beyond this life.
1. What does the Bible say about confidence? (2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 13:6)
2. Does God say about defending yourself and others? (Psalm 144:1, Matthew 5:39-39)
Leaving the cinema...
Predictable, uninspired and time to let this franchise go to the spirit realm. A better choice in 2016 would be Zootopia.
Kid's Korner are shorter reviews written by Russell Matthews kids perspective and based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #kungfupanda3