In X-Men: Apocalypse, Cyclops convinces Nightcrawler to have a regular teenaged afternoon-about-town. They stop in at the mall, cruise downtown, and go to the movies, where they happen to catch Return of the Jedi and note that the third one in any trilogy is “always the worst.” Ahem.
Kung Fu Panda is Kung Fu-cked up. Well, maybe it’s not terrible, but it IS boring and useless. The animation is kind of beautiful at times, and it takes stabs at being heart-warming, but by the third installment, this franchise just feels washed out, and I was never its biggest fan to begin with. The plot is a barely-there mishmash of eastern and western tropes and while it says the right things, it fails to engage.
You may know from previous films that Po the panda (voiced by Jack Black) is raised by a restaurateur goose in a village with no other pandas. There is, however, a Kung-Fu master (Dustin Hoffman) and his protégés (Angelina Jolie, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Lucy Lui) which soon includes Po, as improbable as it seems. In this movie, Po’s biological father (Bryan Cranston) shows up in the noodle shop looking for his long-lost son and is thrilled to find that his son is now a dragon warrior because that’s just what his village needs to be saved from the evil villain Kai (J.K. Simmons). But Kai is a super villain and only a master of chi can possibly stand a chance. And rather than mastering chi, Po’s fucked off to magical Panda village where’s fluffing around with the other pandas, stuffing his gourd and rolling about like a big dumb animal.
Don’t worry, it’s a kids’ movie, so everything goes exactly as it should: learn lessons, make fart jokes, yadda yadda yadda. Nobody gets beheaded. Nobody’s femur snaps like a twig. Nobody’s silky soft fur gets worn by a callous victor like a cape. It’s all very, well, PG. Nothing unexpected happens. The plot feels very derivative of the first film’s, and come to think of it, the second’s. No matter how much kung-fu we learn there’s always another threat to vanquish – both the physical ones, and the ones inside our head (cue soft pan-pipe music). God I hate cartoons with morals.
This one just felt strained to me. Strained like trying to take a giant panda poop on a steady diet of white rice and cheese. Strained like the look on your adopted father’s face when your “real” dad shows up for #3. Strained like that feeling in your groin when you execute a kung fu thrust kick without first stretching your hammies. Strained like a fourth simile would be. This one’s just not working for me.
Sounds like a big pass, no pun intended….
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haha great review 🙂 Never saw 1 or 2 so won’t see this one either!
How will you prepare for number 4??????
I did like the first one. The second, not so much. I think I’ll give this a pass.
I wish I could remember the first more clearly, and I think I’m too jaded for a rewatch.
I found the first one mildly amusing but also a pretty big waste of talent. David Cross didn’t say anything remotely funny. Actually I’m sure he had some hilarious lines that were too scatological for a kid’s movie. And is Jackie Chan under some kind of contract that he has to be involved in anything related to martial arts even if he never does anything?
It’s no surprise it went downhill after that.
And, ahem, Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban was arguably the best of the films.
There are exceptions to every rule.
I’ll take your word for it. I’ve never seen a single Harry Potter film and never will. So I suppose in a way, the third is just as good to me as the first or the last.
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I love every Chipmunk movie, the Penguins and other zany characters in the zoo movies. So, of course, don’t mind the Kung Fu Panda ones!
I happen to have grown up on cartoons. I am one who likes various versions of the same characters in different scenarios, Jay! I liked the Flintstones and the Looney Tunes group and seeing how the Roadrunner would somehow beat poor Wiley Coyote. I always rooted for the bird, but my brothers likes the Coyote. Hmm. . . 🙂
Sounds like you’re a real animal lover!
I can’t wait for the new movie The Secret Life of Pets to come out – it’s about the things our pets do and say when we leave the house!
Of course, Pixar’s Finding Dory will be out even sooner and is sure to be a big hit!
I wasn’t much keen on the first two. All very nice to look at, but I think we’ve maybe been a bit spoilt with fairly great animated flicks that this always felt a bit weak.
You’re right. Pixar sets a high bar, and it’s hard to take something aimed purely at children really seriously.
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i have heard some great reviews from people.. but..ive never been into animation or cartoons..so on we go….
YOu’re right. There have been some good reviews so I’m in the minority here. I just think there are better examples of story out there, and just because it’s animation it shouldn’t get to sit on its laurels. Though J. makes a good point: we’ve been spoiled. Thanks, Pixar!
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Always enjoy your reviews Jay and I think I might particularly enjoy the ones for the films that did not meet with your approval. I have to agree, I recall Kung Fu Panda 2 impressing me for what it was. A lot of the plot points in this film feel like a natural extension of where to go in a trilogy capper and there’s humourous exchanges to be sure but for some reason it just didn’t impress like the last one.
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1) The Kai chi-stealing plot felt a bit like perhaps(?) there was a struggling attempt just to come up with a plot to justify a third film, aside from Po’s reunion with his biological relatives (which was hinted at as a surprise review at the end of the 2nd film after Lord Shen’s panda persecution).
2) Apparently, from this movie, if one “dies,” he/she simply ends up in a spirit realm. So if two people in the spirit world try to “kill” one another, can they still “die,” and if so, where would they go after that?
3) The ending sequence in which Po becomes a chi master and defeats Kai didn’t feel as climactic, considering Kai actually chains him up and is in the process of turning him into a jade amulet, but the village pandas suddenly have a moment of faith and help Po by channeling chi to free him. Suddenly, Po has mastered chi and has “become” the Dragon Warrior. The villain’s defeat felt lacking in impact, much like Khan’s defeat by Spock in Star Trek Into Darkness.
Check out this YouTube clip if you want: