Kung Fu Panda 3

 

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DreamWorks' third instalment now sees Po having to find his inner 'chi' and defeat a dastardly yak from the spirit world. Well, it's certainly animated.

 

Kung Fu Panda 3

 

In real life, pandas are quite beguiling creatures. It’s not for nothing that they have been adopted as the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund. In real life, kung fu is an extraordinary human discipline, an art which, like music, painting and ballet, elevates the human species to a higher plain. In animation, the Orient has served to distinguish many a feature film, from the output of Studio Ghibli and anime to Disney’s Mulan. Here, all that is overturned in the name of child-friendly buffoonery. With little attention to real wit, Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni's Kung Fu Panda 3 provides little more than a mishmash of anthropomorphic slapstick and otherworldly pyrotechnics.

Our hero, a giant panda of little brain called Po (voiced by Jack Black), is now called on to replace the kung fu teacher Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and become the protector of the Valley of Peace. Of course, Po proves to be as inept a teacher as he is a student and is advised by Shifu to find his inner ‘Po’. He can succeed if he can only become the master of himself, attaining an inner strength called ‘chi.’ Sagely, Shifu divulges to Po that, “if you only do what you can do you will never be more than you are.” But, of course, this is way too much for the panda to take on board. However, when an almighty demon, Kai (J.K. Simmons), returns to the mortal world after a 500-year banishment, all is lost unless Po can pull his socks up.

 

In an age when animation is increasingly raising the bar with films like Inside Out, Anomalisa and the upcoming Loving Vincent, it’s dispiriting to witness something so cynically aimed at the box-office. While some of the incidental animation has its pleasures, most of what is on screen is a shambolic obstacle course of gravity-defying leaps and pratfalls. It’s easy to convey wholesale destruction with the use of CGI, far harder to summon up any semblance of charm. It’s a shame, as the visuals are often impressive and the vocal talent formidable (Hoffman, Simmons and Angelina Jolie have all won Oscars). But the crass rendering of Po and the other pandas he encounters here (his father is voiced by Oscar nominee Bryan Cranston), is an insult to the gentle bear-like animal. And animating the remarkable art of kung fu is akin to replicating the voice of Adele with castanets.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of Jack Black, Bryan Cranston, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu, David Cross, Kate Hudson, James Hong, Randall Duk Kim, Jackie Chan, Wayne Knight, Pax Jolie-Pitt, Knox Jolie-Pitt, Zahara Jolie-Pitt, Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.

 

Dir Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni, Pro Melissa Cobb, Screenplay Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, Pro Des Raymond Zibach, Ed Clare Knight, Music Hans Zimmer.

 

DreamWorks Animation/Oriental DreamWorks/China Media Capital/Shanghai Media Group-20th Century Fox. 

94 mins. USA/China. 2016. Rel: 11 March 2016. Cert. PG.