KUNG FU PANDA 4

★★★

SHADOOSH! PO IS BACK ON THE BIG SCREEN

THEATRICAL REVIEW
By Chris Dos Santos
24th March 2024

For 16 years, the Dragon Warrior has been a part of our lives. With three films and three TV shows, Po and The Furious Five have been using the art of kung fu to combat a whole line-up of foes. While the franchise has been very consistent on the TV side, the final season of the third series ended only in September last year, it has been eight years since Po has graced the big screen - but now, he's back, along with some new friends.

Since 'Kung Fu Panda 3' Po (Jack Black, 'The Super Mario Bros. Movie', 'Jumanji' franchise) has continued to be the Dragon Warrior, but Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman, 'Chef', 'Little Fockers') informs him it's time to become the spiritual leader of the Valley of Peace. This means he must now search for a successor. In the process, he runs into Zhen (Awkwafina, 'Migration', 2023's 'The Little Mermaid'), a sly fox, who informs Po of The Chameleon (Viola Davis, 'Air', 'The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes'). She has the power to shapeshift into many different animals, and plans to use her sorcery power to summon foes of Po's past and use their kung fu power to defeat Po.

SWITCH: 'KUNG FU PANDA 4' TRAILER 2

'Kung Fu Panda 4' feels like an extended TV special, with once again beautiful animation by DreamWorks, but the story is just so weak. The lack of the Furious Five and focus on new character, Zhen, is part of the reason. The film moves so fast that we have no time to connect with her and it makes us miss the characters we have grown to love, making this the weakest theatrical outing we have seen so far from the loveable panda. It's incredibly simple: Po goes to a town, finds the new villain, defeats them, the end.

Jack Black, of course, is a delight as a voice actor and he brings a lot of comedy to the film to hide the weak story, but we have three other films that pack a more satisfying punch, leaving this fourth entry unnecessary. The only reason it seems to exist is keep this brand alive and DreamWorks needed to make a quick buck. Having said this, it's not a bad cash grab - just that when you start to compare it with what came before, its weakness shows.

Jack Black, of course, is a delight as a voice actor and he brings a lot of comedy to the film to hide the weak story, but we have three other films that pack a more satisfying punch, leaving this fourth entry unnecessary.

It also makes me question why it exists. 'Kung Fu Panda' is a nostalgic brand, but not to the level where audiences were demanding another theatrical entry. This isn't a 'Toy Story' or even 'Mario', and the latter seems to be a big reason this does exist - purely to bank on Jack Black's name after the success of that film last year.

One of the highlights outside of the comedy was the B-Plot of Po's biological dad, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston, 'Argylle', 'Asteroid City'), and adoptive dad, Mr Ping (James Hong, 'Everything Everywhere All At Once', 'Turning Red'), going on a side quest. The two characters are very enjoyable to watch and there was a lot of fun playing with the "two dads" jokes.

'Kung Fu Panda 4' is a safe kids film. It's a shell of the first three films, and while the comedy and animation are fun and vibrant, the story really weighs this outing down. It's a fine way to kill 90 minutes this Easter and not much more - it's not a trainwreck like many other sequels are this long after the last entry, but it's simply a weaker film.

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