IHE’s review published on Letterboxd:
A serious step down after the masterpiece that is the second movie. Full of pointless filler nonsense that doesn't really work or add to anything, let alone move the plot forward.
Yeah we get it pandas are fat and it's hilarious when they fall over. It's more than enough to have Po fulfil the funny fat guy quota. The panda town is like a collection of Kevin James', which is about as charming as that sounds.
The villain theme song is good, but Zimmer doesn't really have any room to flex his talent (alongside a disappointing lack of John Powell).
Speaking of, the villain is kind of weak with a feeble motivation that is way too similar to the first and second movies.
The film is somewhat saved by incredible art direction, colour palette, action storyboarding and choreography. Any scene set in the 'spirit realm' is a standout, the creative team clearly had the most fun planning out those striking set pieces. The new character designs are also fantastic, whenever they introduce a new animal into the series they manage to keep it fresh and unique. However, it doesn't have any sequence I would describe as particularly impressive or memorable compared to the first two. The pace of the movie is okay, but it feels like it's over before it ever gets a chance to truly begin. One of my favourite aspects of Kung Fu Panda 2 is the gradual build of momentum that crescendos in an immensely satisfying action climax that feels earned and exhilarating. 3, in contrast, feels like a step backwards in almost every regard.
Po's arc is also familiar territory, the Kung Fu Panda formula is in full effect by this point. At times, it feels like it's a rushed TV movie spin-off of the series with better animation.
For some reason, this series is able to wuxi finger hold my heartstrings and play me like a fiddle. The first two movies have multiple points of genuine, heartfelt emotional impact and weight. But I barely felt anything here, and I'm usually a big baby who's easy to manipulate. Which is strange considering the father-son relationship with the goose in the second movie is so much more poignant and it wasn't even the focus of that film.
I don't think it's bad by any means, it's just missing the special sauce required to make it great like what came before it. Instead of doubling down on the emotional stakes that came before, they went for the safer kiddy friendly gags. Until this entry, the series had the perfect ying/yang balance of comedy, action and heart. Guillermo del Toro and Charlie Kaufman's absence is felt (yes they both worked on Kung Fu Panda 2 I'm not joking about how EPIC that movie is).