Fung Fu Panda 3 - A Parent's Review

by Kersley Fitzgerald

Kung Fu Panda 2 was traumatic for Po. It's not every day a panda is told by his goose father that he's adopted. On his journey to finding inner peace, Po remembers his parents, particularly his mother who sacrificed herself to save little Po in a battle. The movie ends in a hidden village of pandas, with one realizing that his son is still alive.

Kung Fu Panda 3 begins shortly after. Po's birth father (identified by his ability to eat a ridiculous amount of dumplings) arrives at Po's step-father's restaurant. The resemblance between the two pandas is obvious as they pretty much destroy the Hall of Warriors playing with the artifacts. Things are less stable in the spirit world where Master Oogway's former best friend, a yak named Kai, has learned to steal the chi of other masters. With Oogway's chi, stored in a jade amulet around his neck, Kai has enough power to leave the spirit realm and seek the power of living masters.

Meanwhile, the long-suffering Master Shifu has announced to Po that the next step in his training is to discover who he is, become a teacher, and master the art of chi. Po's first foray as an educator is a disaster for the Furious Five, so Po concentrates on finding himself by returning to the panda village with his birth-father who has told him that pandas are keeper of the art of chi. Po does learn more about being a panda, but discovers that the pandas have lost the ability to use chi. Still, he finds his calling as a teacher as he prepares the villagers to use their strengths (rolling, hugging, hacky-sacking...) to fight Kai. When Kai arrives, Po discovers he has stolen the chi of every master save for Tigress, and turned his friends into jade zombie-warriors. With no ability to use chi, Po sacrifices himself to send Kai back to the spirit realm.

The battle continues. Kai has captured Po and is working to steal his chi. In the physical world, Po's birth-father rounds up the villagers, Tigress, and Po's foster-father to call on the chi they need. It works, and Po receives their work, destroying Kai and releasing his victims; Master Oogway back to his little island in the spirit realm, and the others to the physical world. Master Oogway gives Po his staff (he has another, bigger one), and Po chooses to return to the world, having learned who he is, how to teach, and how to use chi.

A Parent's Perspective
The movie was good. The Furious Five had very few lines. Po was noticeably more mature, while still being goofy. There was a good message about how having both his foster-father and his birth-father meant more love for Po (although it was a little weird to continually hear him talk about his "two dads" in a completely legitimate way). And he learned how to be both a panda and a dragon warrior.

The sticking point for me was the plot wrapped around the concept of chi. We have a few articles on chi, Taoism, and yin and yang, if you'd like more information. When it comes to alternative medicine like chiropractic treatments and acupuncture, it could be that the ancient Chinese practice of "aligning the life force" has real-life application in the nervous system. But the whole concept of stealing someone's chi and turning them into a zombie warrior is, of course, off. No one can steal a soul, the soul is not held in the nervous system, and you can't get more powerful by taking someone else's life force.

For the Christian, rooted in the Bible, it's a fantasy, like the Force in Star Wars. I only bring it up because I've seen kids who do not have a Christian background buy into the whole yin-yang balance thing. I've also seen a youth pastor/Tae Kwon Do instructor gently explain that there is no balance of good and evil, and chi is not a thing.

Feel free to see the movie. It may get scary for kids who are very sensitive. But I'd encourage parents to read up on chi and talk to their kids about it after. It's amazing what kids will latch onto just because the alternative view wasn't presented.

Kersley Fitzgerald is a former Air Force officer, former Air Force wife, and current editor of Got Questions’ blog site, She and her husband adopted JT from Thailand when he was 18 months old. He has spent the ensuing years teaching her more about God than any theology course could.

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