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Film Review: KUNG FU PANDA 4 (2024): Po is Back in a Basic, Light-Hearted Adventure with Familiar Moments of Peril and Life Lessons

Zhen Po Kung Fu Panda

Kung Fu Panda 4 Review

Kung Fu Panda 4 (2024) Film Review, a movie directed by Mike Mitchell and Stephanie Stine, written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger and Darren Lemke and starring Jack Black, Awkwafina, Viola Davis, Dustin Hoffman, Bryan Cranston, James Hong, Ian McShane, Ke Huy Quan, Ronny Chieng, Lori Tan Chinn, Seth Rogen, Mr. Beast, James Murray, James Sie, Cedric Yarbrough, Vic Chao, Audrey Brooke and Lincoln Nakamura.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is a movie which is wall-to-wall with animated action sequences and plenty of light moments of expected comedy. The movie doesn’t really let up and the zany jokes fly quickly while the chase and fight scenes are nothing less than entertaining to watch. But, as a fourth installment to a series which has done very well, it just all feels so repetitive even if more than several years have passed from the release of the last Kung Fu Panda film. If you’re coming in for the first time, it may seem a bit confusing being that there are so many characters here. However, if you’ve been loyal to the series, you may just find more of the same in this unnecessary, but endearing, animated movie directed by Mike Mitchell and Stephanie Stine.

Once again, Jack Black serves as the voice of everyone’s favorite Panda bear, Po. In his older age, Po has been deemed more suitable as a spiritual leader so Po must discover and teach a replacement Dragon Warrior. There’s also a villain called the Chameleon (the voice of the great Viola Davis in a part she surprisingly accepted). This baddie is a sorceress who changes shape and in order to stop her, Po must team up with a fox named Zhen (perfectly voiced by Awkwafina) who cracks one-liners while offering Po words of wisdom regarding life.

There are a number of hysterical scenes. Po and Zhen must try to get around town when there are “Wanted” posters of both of them hung up all around. Then they meet some cute little characters who thrive on violence and Po must use his wits to outsmart them so he and Zhen can escape their wrath. Also watch a scene where Po tries to escape and accidentally lets loose some flatulence which wakes up the opponents. Fart jokes never fail in a movie such as this one.

Awkwafina saves the day here with the funniest part of the movie. In contrast to her, Black sort of seems like the more serious one. Because Po’s Staff of Wisdom is wanted by the Chameleon, there is a surprise to Awkafina’s character in the movie which, when it’s revealed, is a bit of a bummer. But, the filmmakers efficiently know how to carry the viewer through the twists and turns of a threadbare story in this animated action/comedy.

There are lessons of life prominently integrated throughout the story line. Teamwork is a big one and also the need to always try to find a peaceful resolution to a problem above all else. Those are good messages for kids, for sure, but the overall substance of the movie seems a little tame and a bit safe for adult viewers.

James Hong and Bryan Cranston play the voices of dads Mr. Ping and Li. Ke Huy Quan plays a character known as Han while Dustin Hoffman and Ian McShane do the voice-over work for Master Shifu and Tai Lung, respectively. I think that an animated film like this should put the actor’s face on screen really quickly when their character is first introduced. It would really help instead of having one wonder during the whole movie whose voice that is in a specific part. While you couldn’t miss Awkwafina or Viola Davis, the aforementioned five were hard to figure out until the end credits came up. This is a constant problem I have with animated movies and maybe looking up the actors and the parts they play online before seeing it is essential to enjoying it completely and not getting stumped on whose voice is behind a certain character.

The end credits are played with a new version of an old Britney Spears song, “…Baby One More Time” playing in the background. There is some hilarity here as the credits roll but this section which usually highlights some great moments of comedy seems a bit stiff and a bit flat when compared to other energetic ending credit montages found in animated films these days.

In the end, Kung Fu Panda 4 delivers what it set out to thanks to the rapport between Black and Awkwafina’s charismatic animated characters. Davis is also strong in her villain role too. Kids will go see this for silly action scenes and zany one-liners and they will get them. You can imagine the kids going back to school after seeing this film using Po’s lines. But, adults may have liked a little more plot to go along with the quick action and wit. It’s a close call for me but this movie will certainly resonate more with younger viewers than older ones so view it knowing this fact and you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 6/10

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