Best. Panda. Ever. That’s how I see the third edition of this DreamWorks Animation money-minting franchise, Kung Fu Panda 3going down. It is hilarious of course, but also spirited in every way. Interestingly, DWA has come up with two versions including one in the Mandarin language. But at its core, no matter what the lingo, KFP3 speaks to Po lovers around the world.

pete hammond review badgeThis time Po (Jack Black) is reunited with his long-lost father (voiced by Bryan Cranston), and they travel to a kind of panda paradise where we are introduced to all sorts of new characters designed to add juice to this threequel. It is there that Po graduates from student to teacher as he has to prepare this troupe of ill-prepared pandas to become warriors in the cause against the villainous Kai (J.K. Simmons), who has been sweeping across the Orient defeating kung fu masters. Of course the ultimate fight will be against Po, who must stop him in his tracks.

As I say in my video review (click above to watch), all the familiar elements that made the first two films in the franchise not only box office hits but also an Oscar-nominated animated feature are still there, but the underlying heart of the tale has been sweetened and given more gravitas this time. But don’t despair: the regular gang from the original are back including Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Crane (David Cross), along with Po’s loving adoptive father (James Hong) and the ever-wise Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) who is still dispensing all his worldly advice. Among my favorites of the new crew is the irrepressible Mei Mei (voiced by Kate Hudson).

Direction is again first rate by Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni, while the clever script is credited to Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. They have supplied numerous gags to keep the kids happy, but the film never panders (or should be say panda-ers – sorry) to just the small fry. This movie has true soul and should have wide appeal to families looking for something to warm up their lives during the cold days of February. And fortunately it also has Jack Black, whose vocal work as Po is again exceptional — matched this time by a three-dimensional turn from Cranston as his father. Overall, the Panda team has done it again, making a magical and spiritual adventure full of fight, fun and, yes, heart.

Do you plan to see Kung Fu Panda 3? Let us know what you think.