8. Kung Fu Panda 3
I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for these Kung Fu Panda movies. The martial arts trilogy, one filled with culture, keen perception and sensitivity that carries a heart as big as its ginormous stomach, is among the funniest, most gratifying and most moving franchises to come from the world of animation, at least since the Toy Story films. And while, in true trilogy fashion, the third installment is ultimately the weakest, it’s certainly not weak. It’s another exceptionally entertaining, massively appealing and wonderfully animated addition to the Jack Black-led series, one that continues to surprise, like the first two films, and knows to knock the wind out of you — even if it doesn’t quite pack the same punch. In other words: it’s pretty awesome.
Building on the themes found in the last film, Kung Fu Panda 3 is a story about fatherhood and, once again, acceptance, learning how to honor your ancestors and lineage, while still remaining true to yourself and your experiences. Adding Bryan Cranston, JK Simmons and Kate Hudson to the mix, it continues to add to the richness of the previous two installments, all while making another fast-paced, high-flying, consistently entertaining piece of family entertainment in the process. It might not be as sharp, as agile or as memorable as the ones we’ve seen before, but it doesn’t need to be. It just has to provide a satisfying, delightful and extremely heartfelt (potential) finale to the series, which it does in stride. With more gorgeous compositions, fine character work, quick writing and strong belly laughs, Kung Fu Panda 3 should fill even the hungriest fans’ appetites with its third course.