Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
dealing with feelings of inadequacy
the Eastern spiritual concepts of ch'i and yin/yang
dangers of false Eastern religions
animals in the Bible
|Featuring:||Jack Black … Po (voice)
Angelina Jolie … Tigress (voice)
Dustin Hoffman … Shifu (voice)
Jackie Chan … Monkey (voice)
Seth Rogen … Mantis (voice)
Lucy Liu … Viper (voice)
David Cross … Crane (voice)
James Hong … Mr. Ping (voice)
Bryan Cranston … Li (voice)
Kate Hudson … Mei Mei (voice)
J.K. Simmons … Kai (voice)
|Producer:||China Film Co.
|Distributor:||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation|
For those who are unfamiliar with the series, “Kung Fu Panda” tells the story of Po (Jack Black), who, along with his friends, the Furious 5 (Crane, Monkey, Tigress, Viper and Mantis) and his mentor Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) defend Hill Valley from its many enemies, using the art of Kung Fu.
It’s been four years since we last saw our beloved panda and dragon warrior Po. Po continues to come to grips with who he is. Is he just a panda? Is he the dragon warrior? To top it all off, Master Chifu says it is Po’s turn to become the teacher? So now he wonders, is he a teacher,too? “Who am I?” he asks.
As he contemplates all this, his biological father reunites with Po (after having been separated from him when Po was a baby). Po’s father explains that he and Po are not the only pandas remaining in Hill Valley. In fact, there is an entire secret village full of pandas!
As the reunion is taking place, a new threat emerges. A former foe of Master Oogway’s (Randall Duk Kim), named Kai (J.K. Simmons), travels from the spirit realm in an effort to steal every Kung Fu Master’s ch'i (a spiritual energy that flows through everything) and destroy the Panda Village as well. (We are told that pandas are master’s of ch'i or chi = ki—in Japan, qi—China, gi—Korea.)
Will Po discover who he is? Will he harness the power of ch'i and defeat Kai? Or is all lost?
When a film series, like “Kung Fu Panda,” has a long standing hiatus as it just did, the question becomes, “How successful will the film be?” Are there still those who remember the “Kung Fu Panda” series. Is the interest still there? For filmmakers, I would think this is a huge risk.
I remember when Dreamworks said they were taking time away from the “Kung Fu Panda” series to focus on other film projects (such as “The Croods,” “Home,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” etc.). The other reason they took some time away, from what I can gather, is that Dreamworks Animation in the United States decided to collaborate with Dreamworks Animation in China to produce this film, which, in my opinion, strengthened the overall quality of the film.
As I sat in the theater this afternoon, analyzing each scene, each interaction, I am actually grateful that Dreamworks did take the time to make sure that this sequel lived up to its predecessors. Every scene was carefully planned appropriately. Every interaction means something, every element of the plot means something. Even the humor is appropriately planned (not as overbearing as perhaps the first “Kung Fu Panda”).
The animation is absolutely breathtaking. Dreamworks continues to define itself time after time as one of the greatest animation workshops in the entire world. While the animation for this may not be quite at the level as say, “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” it comes incredibly close. From the beautiful mountains of China to the overall structures of the buildings, the images are simply amazing, and the characters’ movements flow smoothly.
Jack Black still shines in his role as Po. He balances his character much more evenly this time around, compared to the previous films. In the beginning, he is very silly and humorous. Without giving too much away though, we see him come to grips with his struggle of identity, and we see his rather serious nature as well, bringing a whole new side of Po not previously seen in the other films.
The Eastern Spiritual Content: The film speaks on the mystic concept of ch'i. After doing a little more research, I have learned that in Chinese culture ch'i is a “universal energy” or “life force” that flows and drives through every living thing. It connects everything and everyone together on Earth. It also exists in people. In the film, we see how ch'i is used by Pandas as a mean of healing (a use for good). However, we also see the main villain, Kai, harness the ch'i of other Kung Fu Masters (thereby their bodies disappear) and control their ch'i to cause destruction and harness other Kung Fu Master’s ch'i. This may be considered the most offensive portion of this movie for some viewers, and, unfortunately, it is one of the central focuses of the film. So parents, please be aware of this before bringing your child to see the movie.
Slapstick Humor and Violence: There are multiple scenes of slapstick humor, many of which involve Po getting hit in the face or in his, uh, “tenders.” A huge portion of this humor occurs as Po is trying to fit in with the pandas of the Panda Village. Another scene occurs toward the beginning of the film and involves the Furious 5 during a failed training session. There are multiple, somewhat intense, martial arts sequences. As previously mentioned, Kai drains the masters’ ch'i (we watch as their bodies disappear, not graphic though).
Language: Po mentions he just “peed” himself. Other mild language includes “idiot” “butt” and “tenders.”
Other: A female Panda, Mei Mei (Kate Hudson), flirts with Po and ribbon dances for him. A goose is seen laying eggs when Kai arrives.
Po eventually comes to realize that he needs to stop trying to figure out who he needs to become and just be himself.
God asks us to come to Him as we are. Even we when fall and even when we feel unworthy. It is his grace, his mercy, and his unconditional love for us, his treasured creation, that makes us perfect in his eyes—through the redemption of His Son.
In reviewing“ Kung Fu Panda 3,” one of the most difficult decisions I had to make was the moral rating for this film. The rating I have given is due mainly in part to the spiritual content of the film. Apart from this, it is a wonderful addition to the franchise—beautiful animation, a strong plot, balanced moments of humor and just a nice way, as other reviewers have mentioned, to possibly (and I do mean POSSIBLY) end the series.
BUT, the concept of ch'i and how its significant presence in the film means that I cannot recommend the film for Christian viewing, despite what “Kung Fu Panda 3” has going for it. I would advise parents to do some research before deciding to see this film. Sorry Dreamworks.
Violence: Moderate to heavy / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.