'Kung Fu Panda 3', the latest computer-animated film, directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh Nelson, indulges in martial arts and action comedy. It is a stereotypical, Karate Kid-esque, underdog-hero tale.
Layered with lessons of life with overall leitmotifs about self-realisation and identity, the story moves at a brisk pace with a few distinctively funny and emotional moments. As you are glued to the screen, you realise, being the third edition of the series, the script is much less mature, pandering to a younger audience.
The messages are simplistic and the threat of the powerful and vicious looking, spirit warrior Kai (J.K. Simmons) who comes back to life from the spirit realm, in search of the Dragon Warrior, who is predicted to slay him, lacks the grandeur and complexities that were progressively built up from its earlier instalments.
On earth, demoralised as a newly appointed Kung Fu teacher, Po (Jack Black) questions who he really is and whether he is really the Dragon Warrior. In response, the retiring Kung Fu Master, Shifu advises Po that instead of trying to be a teacher, he should try to be himself.
When Po goes home to his adoptive father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), at his noodle shop, he bumps into another panda called Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) who surprisingly turns out to be his biological father. They soon bond and Li Shan takes Po back to the land of his origin, where he meets his brethren.
Meanwhile, Kai tracks Po in the valley and soon Po and the entire panda village join hands to fight against the evil Kai. The result is cliched and predictable.
While the dialogues and humour are a bit flat and stale, the action sequences are depicted in a comical fashion which may appeal to kids and the final showdown looks more like an overuse of special effects than well thought out choreography.
But what keeps you enthralled are the stunning graphics with vivid colours. The scenery is easily the best element of the visuals, with some sprawling landscapes on display and the locales especially the Panda Village, are truly picturesque. The characters too are minutely visualised with fine emphasis on their eyes, skin tones and body movements.
What also keeps you engaged are the energetic voices of the ace cast which resonate with the right blend of emotions. The voices include that of Angelina Jolie as Master Tigress, Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu, Jackie Chan as Master Monkey, Seth Rogen as Master Mantis, David Cross as Master Crane, Randall Duk Kim as the Grand Master Oogway.
The background score created by Hans Zimmer misses some oriental notes but the song, "Kung Fu fighting" is appropriately used during the end credits.
Overall, "Kung Fu Panda 3" will appeal more to those who have not seen the earlier editions.