After the success of the last two Kung Fu Panda movies, a third instalment was inevitable and the first two being as good as they were, the pressure was on for Dreamworks to not mess things up with a soulless cash-in.
The good news is that Kung Fu Panda 3 is definitely not that and is actually a very decent, worthy second sequel. This time, Po (Jack Black) is tasked by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) to teach his team mates Kung Fu but, of course, that soon backfires. Meanwhile, evil yak Kai (J.K. Simmons) comes back from the spirit world with the goal of taking the "Chi" from every Kung Fu master in the land. He goes on a rampage just as Po's long lost father Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) shows up to take Po back to the panda village and show him the ways of the pandas. Both plots eventually meet and, once again, Po will have to learn a bunch of valuable lessons to defeat the villain and become the master he was destined to become.
It's a busy sequel and, in lesser hands, it could have easily been a mess but it works. That said, new threat Kai fails to match how good Gary Oldman's Lord Shen was in the last movie despite some impressive fight sequences and the whole thing is rather predictable and, by extension, slightly underwhelming. From the moment Po shows up at the panda village it's blindingly obvious what will follow so don't be too surprised if your mind wanders a little during the second half of the film. There needed to be more shocks and surprises, some clever twists and turns to keep things interesting. As it stands, the characters are likeable enough and the action is colourful enough to keep everyone entertained but the youngest viewers will probably enjoy the film more than others.
The voice cast is, as ever, star-studded and the two main new additions do a terrific job but it's James Hong, as Po's adoptive father, who steals the show as Mr Ping's jealousy towards Po's relationship with his newfound other father is the source of most laughs. The likes of Jackie Chan, David Cross and Lucy Liu feel a little wasted as they barely get lines and cramming in loads of Angelina Jolie's kids to voice young pandas doesn't add anything to the movie besides more pointless, annoying characters.
While Kung Fu Panda 3 is easily the weakest and most forgettable of the three films, it remains an enjoyable visual treat (especially in 3D) with enough fun moments to keep kids and adults amused throughout.