THE MOVIE GUY: ‘Kung Fu Panda’ still packs a funny punch

Published 3:32 pm Thursday, January 28, 2016

It’s been five years since the last “Kung Fu Panda” movie hit theaters. That’s generally considered to be a sign of problems in the movie business, which is why I was surprised at how much I enjoyed “Kung Fu Panda 3.” This is another delightful romp that features very funny voice acting, a solid screenplay and outstanding animation — not something that you expect from a film sneaking into theaters in January.

This latest adventure follows Po the panda (Jack Black) as he tries to teach kung fu to his furious five friends — Tigress (Angelina Jolie Pitt), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Crane (David Cross) and Viper (Lucy Liu). As you might guess, his initial attempts don’t go well, but the failed lessons do provide plenty of comic mayhem that will delight the young ones.

That’s important because much of the franchise’s charm comes from that sort of comically violent animation mixed in with a very talented group of actors who have no problem generating laughs in between the fight scenes. That continues to be the case in “KP3,” with the animation really shining this time around. This is one of those movies that truly merits beings seen in 3D.

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The acting cast is still fresh, with Black commanding the stage in all of his scenes, but allowing his supporting cast plenty of time to also make their mark. Newcomers J.K. Simmons and Bryan Cranston are also given moments to shine playing the bad guy and Po’s long-lost father.

I was also quite impressed with the screenwriting, which works a surprisingly nuanced father/son story into this standard adventure fantasy. Once again, it’s not the sort of stuff you generally find jammed into an animated kiddy flick.

All of this fits neatly into a 90 minute adventure that keeps the momentum on high, even while allowing those character moments to still shine through. The result is an animated family flick that has artistic merit even while pandering to the kids for obvious laughs.

Fox has plans for six “Kung Fu Panda” movies, and while that might have seemed overly ambitious at the onset, if they can maintain this level of quality over the course of the next few films, I will certainly be thrilled to go back for more kung fu adventures with Po and his friends.

The bottom line is that it may have taken a while to get here, but “Kung Fu Panda 3” still packs a terrific punch.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM and KBTV. Sean welcomes your comments via email