In the third (and final?) Kung Fu Panda film, Jack Black’s kung-fu-fighting panda, Po, matches up against another adversary who is more than his match. Kai, a legendary villain played by J.K. Simmons, defeats Grandmaster Oogway in the spirit realm and then battles his way through a series of kung fu masters, stealing their chi. Only Po remains – but he is clearly insufficient to save to the world, isn’t he?
In a setup that had me thinking Po was absolutely ending up in Shrek 2 territory, the film finds Po meeting his real father, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), and heading to a long-lost panda village. It’s more Magnificent Seven than Princess Bride, as Po must help the hapless pandas there learn how to defend their village against the evil forces of Kai and his jade warriors.
Beautifully animated, the film has captured the Jack Black essence in vocals and visuals, with a list of animated comedians like David Cross, Seth Rogen, and Jackie Chan filling out other necessary parts. With the village setup, we see other panda animations, now that Po isn’t alone; it’s cute to throw some baby pandas out there for sure. But ultimately, this is about Po ascending the stairs to grand mastery, and Kai’s violent, greedy push sends him scurrying up the levels.
Thanks to extras on the Blu-ray, there are all-new animated shorts and a karaoke singalong,”Everybody Loves a Panda Party.” The fold out of a panda party will have kids delighting as their animated friends come to life in the real world. All of the talk of “Skadoosh” will have them screaming it even more (like that’s possible in my house)! And of course, digital HD allows you to take it on the road.
While Po was previously the kind of character we loved, but knew could never make it on his own, here he transforms into the kind of leader he was always supposed to be. And it happens before our eyes in beautiful animation.