- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A bumbling bear proficient in martial arts returned to theaters earlier this year in a critically acclaimed, half-billion-dollar blockbuster offering an animated story about family and tradition.

The fluffy Po’s third outing now moves to home theaters and Kung Fu Panda 3: Awesome Edition (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG, $39.99, 112 minutes) gives home theater-loving tweens and parents a chance to appreciate the high-energy adventure.

Continuing to learn his place in the ancient lands of China, while always striving to be better, the Dragon Warrior panda, reunites with his biological father Li Shan (much to the dismay of his adopted dad Ping) before engaging in a fight for the mortal realm against the Chi-absorbing, spirit warrior deity Gen. Kai.

He’ll need a new level of training in a secret panda village to find the power to defeat the fanatical immortal and rescue his fellow warriors while literally learning how his cuddly brethren roll.

A stellar, celebrity-infused voice cast helps brings the computer generated anthropomorphic world to life and features Jack Black as Po, Bryan Cranston as Li Shan, Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu (a red panda), J.K. Simmons as Kai (a large yak), Kate Hudson as Mei Mei (a ribbon-dancing panda) and James Hong as Mr. Ping (a crane).

Of course, the film also features the return of Po’s posse, the Furious Five consisting of Angelina Jolie as Master Tigress, Lucy Liu as Master Viper, Seth Rogen as Master Mantis, David Cross as Master Crane and Jackie Chan as Master Monkey.

SEE ALSO: Blu-ray review: Shrek: Anniversary Edition

The cast’s blends humor and emotion to complement some colorful visuals from the animation artists, which are further highlighted throughout the striking digital transfer.

Viewers will admire the visual splendor of garden statuary celebrating former masters, the candle-lit shrines throughout the lands and gorgeous detail afforded the panda village. Some traditionally illustrated masterpieces reveal a back story of Po’s father.

Most impressive was the fantastic character model of Gen. Kai, with steam billowing from his nostrils and dreadlock-style hair swishing around his neck with every movement.

And, equally slick was his army of legendary martial artists turned into animated jade as well as Kai using dual jade blades tethered to chains that he swung to elicit sparks along the stone pathways in the midst of attacks.

My only disappointment is the presentation is not a screen-filling experience, instead relegated to the black-bar-hogging, 2.35:1-aspect ratio.

Overall, “Kung Fu Panda 3” and its solid narrative fits well within the franchise but never reaches the range of humor or innovation that one might have found in the “Shrek” series or Disney’s recent powerhouse “Zootopia.”

SEE ALSO: Blu-ray review: ‘Zootopia’

Of course, with the movie skewed for a tween audience, the Blu-ray extras entice that demographic with a wide range of content.

Best of the bunch is a 5-minute compilation of cute creatures with directors Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Alessandro Carloni offering a look at real baby pandas in action that inspired some of the young bears in the movie.

I defy any cranky child not to start giggling while watching these mighty beasts roll around or consume mass quantities of bamboo.

Next, youngsters can remove a paper insert from the Blu-ray package and follow along with an instructional video to construct an origami (zhezhi in China) version of Po. The famed Panda offers narration with human hands onscreen showing the folding required to build a cubed version of the Panda. Parents should also have some scotch tape handy.

Also worth noting is a quick, 3.5-minute look at Po’s dragon warrior posters. Relayed as motion comic illustrations and showing off a slick selection of various art styles, the featurette highlights the panda in various costumes showing off his Kung Fu moves.

Extras are rounded out with the directors explaining 8-minutes worth of deleted scenes; a cartoon short called “Panda Paws” featuring a brief talent show audition with Mei Mei versus a pint-sized rival; and a music video of a panda party with the group singing new words to the classic 1970s Carl Douglas song “Kung Fu Fighting.”

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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