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Movie review: ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’

Po (voiced by Jack Black), left, and his long-lost panda father Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston) in DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 3.”
Po (voiced by Jack Black), left, and his long-lost panda father Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston) in DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda 3.”

They say the third time’s the charm.

Yet the third installment of the popular “Kung Fu Panda” animated movie franchise comes off as less charming than its predecessors.

In Kung Fu Panda 3, the now-confident Dragon Warrior known as Po (Jack Black) is content in protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five. His teacher Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) tells the pudgy Panda that he must be the new master to his peers.

As he is faced with the challenge of learning to be a teacher, Po unexpectedly gets reunited with his long-lost panda father, Li (Bryan Cranston).

You may recall that Kung Fu Panda 2 touched on Po’s origin story and introduced audiences to Po’s bio dad at the end of the film when we see Li sense that his son is still alive. In that movie, Po learned that he had to unlock the secrets of his past in order to gain inner peace.

In this film, Li reunites Po with his panda family in a secret panda paradise, which is threatened by Kai (J.K. Simmons), a supernatural super-villain set to destroy Earth. Po takes on the task of being a leader in the panda village in order to find the qualities he needs to become the ultimate Dragon Warrior master.

Simmons provides a nice touch of wit and wickedness to Po’s new evil foe, and Kai is the only new character that stands out. Kate Hudson’s ridiculous Mei Mei is an unnecessary distraction. The characters we have grown to love, such as Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogers) and Crane (David Cross), are all relegated to bit parts. Even Po’s adoptive dad, Mr. Ping (James Hong), takes a back seat in all the action.

But let’s face it, the main reason families enjoy the series is Po, thanks to Jack Black’s frenetic and friendly approach. There’s just enough huggable and Hi-Ya! moments to keep the animated film’s core audience chomping on their popcorn and glued to the screen.

Maricar Estrella: 817-390-7720, @maricare

Kung Fu Panda 3

(out of five)

Directors: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Cast: Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, J.K. Simmons

Rated: PG (martial arts action, mild rude humor)

Running time: 100 min.

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