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Non-Review Review: Kung-Fu Panda III

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2016.

Kung-Fu Panda III retains the energy and style that distinguished the prior instalments of the series, even if the emotional beats feel further and further removed from what made the original such a beloved animated classic.

The original Kung-Fu Panda offered a compelling genre mash-up, slotting anthropomorphised animals into a kung-fu action adventure. However, despite the pulpier elements of the plot, Kung-Fu Panda carried a surprising emotional weight. Featuring one of Jack Black’s strongest performances and mining the incongruity of a Panda martial artist for all its worth, Kung-Fu Panda fleshed out and developed its world and its characters with a surprising amount of depth.


However, that emotional depth faded over the course of the sequels. Kung-Fu Panda II touched on issues related to identity and adoption amid a more generic action adventure, fleshing out Po’s backstory and exploring how he came to be raised by a mongoose. Picking up on the cliffhanger teased in the closing scene of Kung-Fu Panda II, Kung-Fu Panda III finds Po reconnecting with his long-lost father and trying to make sense of his place in the world. However, a lot of its emotional beats feel overly familiar and routine.

Still, Kung-Fu Panda III retains the energy and dynamism of the prior two installments, with a kinetic visual style and a number of visually impressive set pieces. It just feels a bit more hollow than the previous films in the series.


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Non-Review Review: Turbo

Turbo is the best animated movie of 2013, well worth coming out of your shell to see. It’s probably the best Dreamworks film since Kung-Fu Panda and the best CGI animated feature since Toy Story 3. Indeed, Turbo manages to evoke a lot of the charming early Pixar films, in particular channelling Ratatouille, as we follow the adventures of one common unloved animal who decides that “good enough” is not quite good enough.

Stop the clock...

Stop the clock…

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Non-Review Review: Epic

Epic looks stunning. While it doesn’t necessarily push the envelope in terms of 3D rendering or animation, it’s often quite beautiful to watch. Even in 3D, the vibrant greens radiate off the screen, with the characters having a pleasant elasticity to them. The action sequences are well-staged and the choreography is generally impressive. However, despite this, Epic winds up feeling rather shallow. Perhaps it’s a result of the decision to develop the world as a priority, rather than the characters inhabiting it.

The story is more a collection of familiar tropes and set-pieces than a compelling narrative, and none of the lead characters are ever developed beyond basic archetypes. There’s the plucky heroine, the roguish hero, the gruff mentor, the free-spirited wise oracle, the drôle accented bad guy, the comic relief and even the kooky dad. None feel of any real substance, which is a problem when you’re executing a plot as straight-forward as this.

It's a slug's life...

It’s a slug’s life…

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Non-Review Review: Kung-Fu Panda 2

I think the original Kung-Fu Panda might be my favourite Dreamworks animated film. A lot of people go on and on and on about how that particular studio’s animation can be measured against that of their competitor Pixar, with arguments about intellectual and emotional maturity and sincerity. Some argue that the reason Pixar dominates their field is because they don’t treat animation as something just for children. Others suggest that they have a mathematical formula devised to break human hearts. Personally, the feeling I always got from Pixar films that I only fleetingly sensed in the work of Dreamworks, was that those creators were essentially making their dream movie – each and every Pixar film seems lovingly crafted according to a creative vision not based around the “rules” of the industry, but around good ideas and the kinds of stories those people like to tell (and like to hear). I think that is why the original Kung-Fu Panda worked so well, and also why Kung-Fu Panda 2 does such a great job as a follow-up.

They know kung-fu...

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Non-Review Review: Kung-Fu Panda

There’s nothing like a nice relaxing movie that you can cuddle up on the couch and just enjoy. Another testament to what was a fantastic summer last year, Kung Fu Panda may not have been the best animated film of the year – that honour goes to Wall-E – but it was still a fun, enjoyable and lively romp which should leave you smiling for most of the runtime.

Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting...

Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting...

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