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Movie Review: ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’




by Xtreme HD IPTV

Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s 'Kung Fu Panda 4,' directed by Mike Mitchell.

Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4,’ directed by Mike Mitchell.

Arriving in theaters on Friday, March 8th, ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ marks the return of the animated adventures for Jack Black’s martial arts panda. Revisiting the Valley of Peace after nearly a decade, the movie will need to prove itself even more than your average sequel.

Which has us asking, of course…

Is ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ a Worthy Continuation of the Franchise?

There is good news to report for ‘Kung Fu Panda’ fans (Fandas?) –– the new outing, the first since ‘Kung Fu Panda 3’ in 2016 (not counting the TV spin-offs) is a frothy, diverting affair. While it suffers in not really having a great villain, the usual spirit of Kung Fu Panda lives on in this new offering.

Somewhat naturally that has a lot to do with the effervescent charm of Jack Black, who fully inherits and powers the role, but he’s backed up by an able assortment of returning and new performers.

Related Article: Jack Black Starring in Christmas Comedy ‘Dear Santa’ for The Farrelly Brothers

Script and Direction

Jack Black voices Po in DreamWorks Animation’s 'Kung Fu Panda 4', directed by Mike Mitchell.

Jack Black voices Po in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’, directed by Mike Mitchell.

The script, by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger and Darren Lemke shows the hallmarks of writers who have plenty of experience with this world and its characters. Both Aibel and Berger have scripted the other ‘Panda’ films, while Lemke has worked on a few DreamWorks Animation movies, but also has experience on the likes of ‘Shazam!’ and ‘Goosebumps’ (the latter starring Black).

It is also helpful that while it certainly references the franchise’s past (the villain’s plot involves invoking old baddies to steal their powers and fighting styles to augment her own, and Po’s two dads receive their own subplot that eventually ties into the main story), it also has one eye on the future.

Having Po facing the dilemma of giving up being the Dragon Warrior –– a role and responsibility he has less grown into than more grown comfortable with –– while also being tasked with choosing a successor is a helpful, organic framework with which to plot new storylines. Because you just know if this one is a success, DreamWorks will want more.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt that the screenplay is light on its feet and features a number of solid gags, both one-off and runners that work well (one highlight is a guard at the big bad’s palace who points out the error in her plan until his colleagues demand he stops).

Po (Jack Black) in 'Kung Fu Panda 4' directed by Mike Mitchell.

Po (Jack Black) in ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ directed by Mike Mitchell.

On the directing front, the movie’s in good hands with Mike Mitchell, who has plenty of experience on both the animated and live-action front and has proved to deliver regularly for DreamWorks.

Here working with co-director Stephanie Ma Stine, he proves to be the right person to bring this latest film to life, working with the animation and tech teams to find creative ways to explore action set pieces and getting the best out of the voice cast. Particularly impressive is a sequence set in the Jade Palace, where Black’s Po confronts crafty, thieving fox Zhen (Awkwafina) and multiple priceless antiquities are put at risk.

Yes, older audiences will see where the story is going from the minute the two leads meet, but the journey in this case is an engaging one.

Performances

(from left) Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s 'Kung Fu Panda 4,' directed by Mike Mitchell.

(from left) Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4,’ directed by Mike Mitchell.

With Black back in a role that he typically shines in, Po is his usual friendly, hungry self. There’s really not much to having the character work besides the actor’s energy and the occasional “Skidoosh!”, but Black makes it so that you’re happy following our hero along on his latest adventure.

Awkwafina, meanwhile, has been proving her voice-acting mettle in the last few years, working on projects for Disney and Illumination. If she finds her way into an English dub of a Miyazaki movie, she’ll have worked for most of the major animation companies releasing movies in the States.

Zhen (Awkwafina) in DreamWorks Animation’s 'Kung Fu Panda 4,' directed by Mike Mitchell.

Zhen (Awkwafina) in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4,’ directed by Mike Mitchell.

Her Zhen is a lively, quick-witted type, the writers finding gags that work for her and the animators locking in on her offbeat energy.

Viola Davis fares less well as the villainous Chameleon. Her role is very much a standard scheming baddie with a magic plot to harness powers and rule… well, everything. Davis brings her usual gravitas to the part, but aside from some fun abilities once she goes through with her scheme, Chameleon is less memorable than, say, Ian McShane’s Tai Lung (the baddie from the first movie, here drawn back from the spirit world).

On the supporting front, the likes of Bryan Cranston, James Hong and Dustin Hoffman offer typically light-hearted spins on their characters’ schtick, while Ke Huy Quan makes an impression as Han, the king of thieves who factors into both Zhen’s backstory and the final act.

‘Kung Fu Panda 4’: Final Thoughts

(from left) Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) in DreamWorks Animation’s 'Kung Fu Panda 4,' directed by Mike Mitchell.

(from left) Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4,’ directed by Mike Mitchell.

Smartly focusing on just a few characters (some franchise faithful fans will be disappointed to learn that the Furious Five –– AKA the masters voiced by Seth Rogen, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu are conveniently busy off on their own missions, though they do show up for near wordless cameos right at the end), ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ justifies this long-anticipated return to the venerable DreamWorks movie series, without too much of the cash-in effect.

It suffers from a less-than-fantastic villain, but if we’re honest, the bad guys are usually an excuse to give Po his latest mission. And between Black, Awkwafina and some of the other cast, it’s more crowd-pleaser than animated slog.

‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ receives 6.5 out of 10 stars.

PG1 hr 34 minMar 8th, 2024

Showtimes & Tickets

Po is gearing up to become the spiritual leader of his Valley of Peace, but also needs someone to take his place as Dragon Warrior. As such, he will train a new… Read the Plot

What’s the story of ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’?

After three death-defying adventures defeating world-class villains with his unmatched courage and mad martial arts skills, Po, the Dragon Warrior (Jack Black), is called upon by destiny to… give it a rest already. More specifically, he’s tapped to become the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.

That poses a couple of obvious problems. First, Po knows as much about spiritual leadership as he does about the paleo diet, and second, he needs to quickly find and train a new Dragon Warrior before he can assume his new lofty position.

Even worse, there’s been a recent sighting of a wicked, powerful sorceress, Chameleon (Viola Davis), a tiny lizard who can shapeshift into any creature, large or small. And Chameleon has her greedy, beady little eyes on Po’s Staff of Wisdom, which would give her the power to re-summon all the master villains whom Po has vanquished to the spirit realm.

So, Po’s going to need some help…

Who else is in ‘Kung Fu Panda 4’?

Alongside Black and Davis, the cast also includes Awkwafina, Dustin Hoffman, James Hong, Bryan Cranston, Ian McShane and Ke Huy Quan.

Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s 'Kung Fu Panda 4,' directed by Mike Mitchell.

Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s ‘Kung Fu Panda 4,’ directed by Mike Mitchell.

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