After mastering the art of Kung Fu and entertaining the masses in the first Kung Fu Panda film, that lovable Panda Po suffered from the sophomore slump in the follow-up. The Panda was never on a Pixar level, but was still a fun film to enjoy with the kids. The sequel forgot this and went a little too serious with its vengeful peacock storyline and had a broken funny bone with its recycled jokes. Lucky for the audience it appears Po and the rest of the Furious Five have found their chi bringing balance to the Dreamworks universe in Kung Fu Panda 3.

The new installment starts with Po (Voiced by Jack Black) settling into his role as the Dragon Warrior. Everything is stable in Po’s life until his biological panda father Li (Voiced by Bryan Cranston) and the evil warrior Kai (J.K. Simmons) turns his world upside down. The two arrivals have an ancient connection with Po’s panda people holding the secret of how to defeat this supernatural force dead set on capturing all of the greatest warriors for his own diabolical means.

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It’s always impressive to see an actors shine in such a simple roles. Both Bryan Cranston and J.K. Simmons could have phoned in their voice roles and cashed their checks, but they didn’t. They handled theirs jobs in Kung Fu Panda 3 as pros and it made this goofy kid’s movie better than it probably should have been. Cranston’s Panda dad Li brings back the much-needed heart of the franchise and Simmons’ vengeful spirit warrior makes us forgot all about the last film’s failed attempt las time around to make a peacock intimidating.

Dreamworks’ money was well spent with the new additions to the voice cast, but what gets the franchise back on track in Kung Fu Panda 3 is its balance. We want to laugh at a movie where the focus is an obese panda who learns Kung Fu, but we also want to see Po kick a little butt between the jokes. The new film mixes the Wuxi Finger Holds (yes, it sounds dirty, but it’s not) with the laughs into an enjoyable action toon you and your kids will can have fun with. Add in the heart provided by Cranston and Po’s new panda clan are definitely back on the right track in Kung Fu Panda 3.

Overall, I give Kung Fu Panda 3 the score of 3 out of 4 cute kids movie stars.

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