Kung Fu Panda 4 (2024)

Kung Fu Panda 4 Review

Kung Fu Panda 4

In 2016, the trilogy ended on a high note with Po, the adorable yet perpetually hungry hero who had found his place as the Dragon Warrior against all odds. He is both student and teacher. He has won the respect of the Furious Five and his mentor, Master Shifu. And he has repeatedly shown his mettle by defending the Valley of Peace from all kinds of animal attackers. He also shares a warm bond with both of his dads Mr. Ping, the noodle shop-owning goose who raised him, and Li, his biological panda father. It’s all good.

But eight years later, “Kung Fu Panda 4” feels like it’s struggling to justify its existence. It lacks the delicate artistry and warm wit of its predecessors. The subtle sense of spirituality is long gone; we’re now in full frantic-action mode. Where previous films worked on multiple levels to resonate with grown-ups and captivate kids, this one seems aimed largely at younger audiences in ways that are often silly and inconsequential.

Too often in this film from director Mike Mitchell (“Trolls,” “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part”) and co-director Stephanie Ma Stine, the pacing feels rushed which wastes opportunities for tension or humor. A sight gag involving a literal bull in a China shop is emblematic: It whizzes by during a chase sequence without letting us luxuriate in its details for even a moment.

And along with an onslaught of uninspired puns, there’s also a fundamental problem within the script from returning writers Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger and Darren Lemke (“Turbo,” “Shazam!”) that being what sets the plot into motion feels contrived. Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) tells Po (the ever-energetic Jack Black) that he must take on spiritual leadership duties over the valley which had been late master Oogway’s purview and pass off the day-in, day-out responsibilities as Dragon Warrior to a protege. Why now? He’s only had the gig for a little while, and a hastily called audition montage barely registers.

Besides, there’s an immediate threat that brings with it a slew of new characters voiced by an impressive roster of actors. A shape-shifting sorceress known as the Chameleon (Viola Davis, formidable as always) wants to steal Po’s Staff of Wisdom and use it to collect the abilities of all of the villains in the Spirit Realm. Yes, this does sound quite similar to the dastardly plan of Kai, J.K. Simmons’ supernatural bad guy from “Kung Fu Panda 3.” In order to stop her, Po reluctantly teams up with Zhen (Awkwafina), a thieving fox who knows her way around the outside world in ways he doesn’t. It’s one more wise-cracking sidekick role for Awkwafina which she can obviously pull off and which can be amusing but at this point we’ve seen her do this kind of smart-alecky comic relief thing way too many times already, particularly in animated films between “The Little Mermaid,” “The Bad Guys” and “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

In a city called Juniper City, which is not vividly described but is full of narrow streets and crowded markets, Po and Zhen chase the Chameleon; meanwhile, his two dads follow him. The B-plot feels like an afterthought Bryan Cranston’s Li and James Hong’s Mr. Ping are too likable to be given so little to do but waddle and worry. It’s also where we meet Han (voiced by Ke Huy Quan), the street thieves’ leader, who is a welcome presence but underused as a Sunda pangolin. It’s all too much except when it isn’t: All this business about the Furious Five from previous films being on solo missions makes no sense at all. Tigress, Crane, Viper, Mantis and Monkey are supposed to work together; their individual abilities are magnified through collaboration.

Then again, so much of what makes the “Kung Fu Panda” movies magical is missing here, particularly the notion of inner peace. There were moments in earlier films that allowed you to take a breath time for your eyes to settle into the colors and textures of varied and detailed animation sequences that departed from regular storytelling in favor of visual flights often presented in flashback form; these digressions were essential not only to narrative meaning but also overall spiritual vibe in these unique-to-the-genre films. This time around you get a chase scene set to cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train,” which might be fitting since this franchise has gone off the rails.

Watch Kung Fu Panda 4 For Free On Gomovies.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top