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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kung Fu Panda 3 is the third movie in the hit series about unlikely martial arts hero Po (voiced by Jack Black) and his friends, the Furious Five. This time around they face Kai, a scary supernatural bull monster that menaces all of China. Po and the others must fend him off in a series of frequently intense battles that may scare kids; some could also be upset by flashback scenes of parent-child separation, conflict between characters, and moments when it seems like key characters are captured, in danger, and/or possibly gone for good. Expect a little insult language ("stupid," "loser," etc.) and potty humor, but aside from the violence, there's not much to worry about in this effective, entertaining story about family ties (Po meets his long-lost biological father) and establishing your identity. Blended families may particularly like the way that Po's two-dad situation is handled.
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What's the story?
In KUNG FU PANDA 3, Po (voiced by Jack Black), now beloved by all as the Dragon Warrior, meets his long-lost father, Li (Bryan Cranston), and a community of pandas -- after thinking he was the only one of his kind. Together, they and the Furious Five must face a supernatural threat in the form of Kai (J.K. Simmons), a bull-like creature who calls himself "the master of pain, the beast of vengeance" and is bent on robbing China of all its chi. The only way to stop Kai and his legion of jade warriors is for Po to become a master of chi himself ... but first he must reconnect with his inner panda.
Is it any good?
The animation is gorgeous and vividly hued -- the panda village looks like a Chinese version of the Hobbit village crossed with Shangri La -- and the humor is light, if sometimes a bit corny. And the characters in Kung Fu Panda 3 are likeable enough in this generally engaging, family-friendly tale. Po must re-learn what it means to be a panda (sleep in, eat a lot, chill out) and also teach the bucolic village of laid-back, clumsy, and peacefully loving pandas kung fu. To accomplish this, he creates dumpling and noodle "squadrons," which is a cute concept. And the idea that there's always something more to learn (not to mention the value of embracing what makes you you) is definitely a worthy message.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means to "find your true self." Why is it important to find your own identity and talents, rather than try to be like others? What does it mean in Kung Fu Panda 3 when Shifu says to Po, "If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now"?
What makes a family? How does Kung Fu Panda 3 address the idea of biological and adopted families? Is there one right way to blend families together?
Is Kai purely bad, or is there any part of him that's sympathetic? Is it important to be able to empathize with villains?
- In theaters: January 29, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: June 28, 2016
- Cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman, Bryan Cranston
- Directors: Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Alessandro Carloni
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Boy Role Models, Wild Animals
- Character Strengths: Integrity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: martial arts action and some mild rude humor
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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