I previously held up Kung Fu Panda 2 as an example of how a sequel should be done. I don’t think Kung Fu Panda 3 reaches those same heights but it’s still a fun ride.
Kung Fu Panda 3 picks up not long after 2 – Po is living his ideal life as the Dragon Warrior. He gets to kick the butts of bandits and protect the valley, alongside his best friends, the Furious Five…until Master Shifu steps away from teaching and puts Po in charge. His first attempts at teaching go poorly, and his life gets spun completely around when his father comes to town to bring him home (you’ll recall he learned Po was alive at the end of KFP 2).
What follows from here is basically a love letter to the Kung Fu movie genre, right down to the unconventional training techniques, montages, and “your chi is no match for mine!” moments. You also get the expected drama from the goose that raised Po, Ping, who must learn to be happy for his son and support him in his new journey.
One of my favorite actors, JK Simmons voiced the villain, Kai, and Bryan Cranston was Li, Po’s father. Both excellent additions. One thing that bugged me throughout the movie was, I’m fairly certain they cut some scenes with Po and Tigress, possibly even more with Mei Mei (lady panda voiced by Kate Hudson). After KFP 2 seemed to indicate Tigress developing feelings for Po, and Mei Mei basically built up as a complication to that, it seemed like it was dropped and everybody is just friends. Oh, and while I thought the animation was great, it seemed like a few times they didn’t show something that would’ve been awesome – like Crane and Mantis fighting Kai. Having more good moments for the Five keep them from sidekick status, and considering they were masters before Po, that’s a good thing.
Kung Fu Panda 3 was a fitting end to the trilogy, with Po maturing and coming full circle. Like Toy Story 3, I’d be happy if this was the end but I believe they have another trilogy planned. Considering the quality of the three movies so far, I’m good with that.