End-credit acknowledgements of zillions seem to stretch on as long as this ninety-five-minute feature. Kung Fu Panda 3 kicks in with readymade anticipation from two successful predecessors and should please most kids and adults. Although as usual not used to much effect, the expensive 3-D is an added selling point on top of the expensive silly fad of A-listers voicing anthropomorphized animals. How come pandas? Why not, with antz and crickets to toads to dinosaurs and much in between already animated. The several-hundred-pound giant panda bear -- the raccoon-related red species is tiny -- has come to be seen as cuddly enough for the World Wildlife Fund yet clumsy enough for jokes while carrying easy whiffs of China.
The film bears its morals spelled out for a public in need of something simple. Foremost among such messages is that of finding and being true to oneself, connected to the relationship between fathers plural and son singular. The style is computer tech, which has gained total victory over its throwback opposite from Studio Ghibli, gentle hand-done young human characters.
Martial arts which make Bruce Lee’s paragons of realism are all the rage, trailing pseudo-Eastern philosophy shoehorned in via fuzzy Zen Buddhism-Tao-California-New Age. For a tale of finding peace and ch’i, there is much sound and fists of fury here but no navel-gazing stasis. Such not pausing for breath fits into the flow of a hyper society of mass attention deficit deficiency.
Continuing characters and voices from the 2008 and 2011 megahits, thus rendering exposition even simpler, the plot again revolves around Po (voice of Jack Black), the unlikely insecure kung fu adept who belittles and is amazed by his skills. But defunct kung-fu inventor Master Oogway had long ago recognized the future supremacy in the young panda, like the recognition of a Dalai Lama in a baby.
Po has been raised by Mr. Ping (James Hong), a goose dumpling-maker who lied about the obvious but moralizes that parents’ mistakes come with the best of intentions. Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) is grooming the gluttonous awkward panda to lead and teach the familiar Furious Five of Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Viper and Crane (Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Seth Rogen, Lucy Lui, David Cross). Complications set in when birth father Li (Bryan Cranston) shows up to bond with his boy and take him to a hidden panda Shangri-la.
Meanwhile, from the spirit world Picasso-minotaur Kai (J.K. Simmons) materializes back into this mortal one. A once-good guy gone over to the Dark Side like Lord Darth Vader, the nasty marches across China like Mao, encapsulating each of the defeated kung fu masters in jade axe-head pendants, to be released to do his evil bidding as green Mattel Slime/Gummy Bear critters.
With rare restraint as far as cartoon teenspeak is concerned aside from a “sue-weeet” or so, Dragon Warrior Po is challenged to counter the invader, rescue the captured and transformed masters and companions, train his ursine brethren in fighting -- and in the existential process realize his true self.
Two and done here, as with the Shrek franchise, this third time around is not as sparkling fresh. No villains return to the fold, while after a few minutes there are no surprises up to a Star Wars ending of acclaim by the polis. Still, there is action and animation enough to satisfy all who seek no more than entertainment, a lot of bright harmless hyperkinetic fun.
(Released by DreamWorks and Twentieth Century Fox; rated “PG” by MPAA.)