When Po’s (Jack Black) long-lost panda father Li (Bryan Cranston) suddenly reappears, the reunited duo travels to a secret panda paradise to meet scores of hilarious new panda characters. But when the supernatural villain Kai (J.K. Simmons) begins to sweep across China defeating all the kung fu masters. Po must do the impossible-learn to train a village full of his fun-loving, clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas.
I will say that before this, I haven’t seen Kung Fu Panda 1 or 2 but I am very aware of the franchise and the characters (and who isn’t). I’m not sure why I haven’t but I’m glad I did now. This film does reference the previous two films near the beginning but I think you don’t have to see them to enjoy this one. The story here involves a panda named Po (Black) who is visited by his long-lost father Li (Cranston). The two then go to a secret panda village where Po meets a series of different panda characters. When a supernatural villain named Kai (Simmons) is running across China, defeating all the kung fu masters. Po must now try to train this new panda village in order to combat this new threat. My first impression watching this was of how beautiful the animation was. I found it to be bright, sharp, and colourful which kept me engaged. Next was the character of Po who is obviously just an extension of Jack Black himself. From the writing, the voice acting, and the animation, Po is just a fun character to watch and a funny character too. Maybe this is just because this is my first Kung Fu Panda film but I’m guessing that some might be tired of him but I’m not. I think Po goes as far as Black goes as to whether you like him or not. The character of Po brought some comedy but I found the film to be very funny as well, either in the writing of the interactions between the film’s main characters and/or the slapstick. I thought Cranston as Po’s dad Li and Simmons as the villain Kai as I just think Cranston and/or Simmons are just awesome and can make anything better. All of the supporting roles were great too including Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Dustin Hoffman (Master Shifu), and Seth Rogen (Mantis) just to name a few. Yes they were great, but they could have been even better if some of these character were used more. Again this is maybe because this is the only film I’ve seen but this film’s story tended to focus on the relationship between Po and his father Li. I didn’t mind this since I’m a fan of Black and especially Cranston. The film’s story itself was rather predictable being a children’s film but because of the other stuff I mentioned, I didn’t mind this. Through trials and hardships, Po finds himself and learns a lesson which helps him later on. The message, “Be the best you you can be”, is a resounding one which should resonate within kids. This film was made primarily for kids but I believe there is a lot here for adults too. Overall, this is a great, beautiful animated film with a great story and led by great vocal performances.