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With: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, James Hong, Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson, J.K. Simmons, Randall Duk Kim (voices)
Written by: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger
Directed by: Alessandro Carloni, Jennifer Yuh Nelson
MPAA Rating: PG for martial arts action and some mild rude humor
Running Time: 95
Date: 01/29/2016

Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Bear Play

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though it's part of a hugely successful franchise, Kung Fu Panda 3 actually feels like part of the story, like it has a good reason to exist on its own, aside from just being an investment for a movie company. It makes actual sense that Po (voiced by Jack Black) -- who was raised by a noodle-selling goose (voiced by James Hong) -- would eventually find his birth father, Li (voiced by Bryan Cranston). It makes sense that Po would have to solve a problem on his own, without the help of the Furious Five. And it makes sense that, in order to truly find out who he is, Po must visit the panda village. And so all these things transpire when Master Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) tells Po that he is now teaching the training sessions, which he completely bungles. At the same time, an evil villain, Kai (voiced by J.K. Simmons) has just collected enough souls to escape from the spirit realm and return to earth to seek his revenge on Shifu and his students. So, while his friends are turned into jade statues, Po decides to return to the hidden panda village with his father to learn the special technique that will allow him to dispatch Kai back to where he came from. Overall, the great-looking Kung Fu Panda 3 feels more vibrant and confident than its predecessors, and there are fewer painful sequences of Po being humiliated. The action sequences are still clean and fresh, but now take into consideration the special rolly-bouncy movements of pandas, as well as the imaginative world of the spirit realm (where there's no ground or sky, but there are plenty of floating "islands" to bounce on and crash into). And there are still a few hand-drawn sequences for good measure. Fans may be disappointed that the Furious 5 are hardly in this one, but Cranston and Simmons make up for it with their commanding vocal performances, and Black is as good as ever.

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