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domingo, 13 de março de 2016
Kung Fu Panda 3 kicks back in style - review
Po the black-belt panda returns to battle an evil yak in this visually stunning - trippy, even - sequel
It’s bizarre how readily we accept the rules of an animated universe – like the one in Kung Fu Panda 3, which begins with a demonic yak on the loose in some sort of cosmic underworld, two jade knives attached to him on long chains, doing battle with an elderly tortoise called Master Oogway.
If you dreamed this confrontation up, you might wonder what the hell was going on in your head. But this series has always been about equal-opportunities anthropomorphism: essentially, it takes all shapes and sizes to populate a world.
The film's titular hero, Jack Black’s happy-go-lucky Po, has already made good in the previous instalments, redeeming panda-kind from their reputation as dopey layabouts who can scarcely be bothered to step up and extend their own species. But he’s still a slacker, an overeater, and a goofball.
In terms of its own longevity, the series has been smart in giving Po no fixed authority – he’s heavily reliant even now on the sage guidance of his mentor Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), not to mention the back-up fighting skills of Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu), Monkey (Jackie Chan) and Crane (David Cross).
None of them, though, is prepared for the rampaging evil of Kai, that demon-yak, voiced with bellowing menace byWhiplash tyrant JK Simmons, who gets to play up this brute’s amusing frustration that none of them have ever heard tell of him. “Some call me the widowmaker? No?”.
Briskly despatching every kung fu master in his path, he converts their chi into jade pendants slung around his person (his yak?) which can then be unleashed to serve him, resurrecting these trapped opponents in jade-undead-minion form. It makes a little more sense when you’re watching it.
Po, meanwhile, is having to mediate between his adoptive father, a noodle-restaurateur goose voiced by the wonderful James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China), and his long-lost biological dad, who is thankfully an actual panda (Bryan Cranston, laying on some gritty pathos). Again: it takes all kinds of families.
There’s a flicker of romantic interest, too, from a ribbon-dancing, kimono-wearing, same-species seductress called Mei Mei, whose role feels so tailored to Rebel Wilson it’s a surprise to hear Kate Hudson voicing her instead - the overworked Wilson having been forced to bow out late.
The first two films laid down a distinctive visual template which this pushes ever further into trippy, sliced-and-diced abstraction, nodding frenetically to the techniques of the wuxia martial arts genre. We get a lovely flashback inspired by Chinese calligraphy, and a panda village modelled on the real one (well, more of a reserve) in the Sichuan province’s Qingcheng Mountains.
All the best parts of the movie are transitions and montages, jazzing up the video-game-ish plot with mock-heroic exuberance. The summer ahead is looking madly stuffed with talking animals, but Po has jammed his bulging frame through first, and done it with style.