Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Kung Fu Panda 3

Title: Kung Fu Panda 3

Describes This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: "We're here, we're queer and we don't want any more bears!"

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three Hong Kong Phooeys out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Possible evolutionary dead end learns to fight for his species' right to survive.

Tagline: "The weight is over."

Better Tagline: "Eats shoots and leaves."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Picking up where Kung Fu Panda 2 left off, Po (Jack Black) finds life as the Dragon Warrior to his liking, until Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) puts him in charge of training at the Jade Palace. While Po is dealing with inadequacy issues arising from this, the evil Kai (J.K. Simmons) drains Master Oogway of his chi. This puts him over the top to escape from the Spirit Realm, where he's apparently been stewing for the past 500 years. The only hope, of course, is for Po to join forces with his long lost dad, Li (Bryan Cranston), and try to stop Kai and his plan to [looks up plot synopsis] enslave half the world.

"Critical" Analysis: It's been five years since the release of Kung Fu Panda 2. And while there are many things I found myself missing in the past half decade — a functioning Legislature, Friday Night Lights, the crisp taste of Bud Dry — another movie about an overweight caniform's perpetual inability to "believe in himself" wasn't one of them.

But then, Po's never-ending quest for enlightenment is the beauty/marketing genius of this whole franchise. DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg was planning on six KFP movies as of 2011, but why stop there? The venerable Master Oogway is hundreds of years old and only recently obtained inner peace, meaning Po has an almost infinite number of movies to advance from Dragon Warrior (his current title) to Master of Chi to...Ol' Dirty Bastard, which is what I assume the ultimate Shaolin title is.

Things start off as they usually do, with Po tasked by Shifu to take the next step in his journey. This time he's supposed to take over teaching the Furious Five (Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Liu and David Cross taking home the easiest paychecks they've ever earned). He's predictably terrible at it, but his failure just paves the way for him to learn the true path when Kai shows up to drain the chi from all the remaining masters.

Aside: Are children aware of bad animation anymore? They can certainly go watch Boomerang or YouTube and see the Hanna-Barbera garbage we grew up with, but modern cartoons have to actively make an effort to look terrible. Kung Fu Panda 3 is predictably great to look at, and I'm worried people are already starting to take this for granted in animated movies. Everyone born after 1990 should be forced to watch the Laff-A-Lympics in their entirety. 

Moving on. James Hong returns as Po's father, and there's an interesting dynamic between him and Cranston as they try to figure out the "two dads" thing. I'm also secretly hoping he turns into Lo Pan in one of the subsequent movies (it's scientifically proven[1] all movies would be improved with the addition of Lo Pan). More important, in this supposed era of diversity awareness in Hollywood, why are the only other actors with actual Chinese (Liu and Chan) given fewer lines than one of Jolie's kids?

Kung Fu Panda 3 is fairly innocuous as movies about wholesale appropriation of cultural mores go. Hopefully the pretty colors and adorable bears will distract your kids from honest questions about sustainable agriculture.

[1] By myself and several of my friends around a campfire after two cases of beer.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar