“KUNG FU PANDA 4” Review | A Passing of the Torch

The wait is over! Po, the ever-enthusiastic panda with a heart of gold (and a bottomless stomach for dumplings) returns to the big screen in Kung Fu Panda 4, hitting theaters this weekend. Directed by the talented Mike Mitchell (of Shrek fame) and Stephanie Stine and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (who penned the previous Kung Fu Panda films), this fourth installment delivers another heaping helping of fun, action, and heartwarming messages for the whole family.

While the laugh-out-loud moments might not come with the same frequency as in earlier films (a minor quibble we’ll get to in a moment), Kung Fu Panda 4 shines in its exploration of legacy and mentorship. Po, now a seasoned Dragon Warrior, wrestles with the responsibility of becoming the spiritual leader of the Valley of Peace. Jack Black perfectly captures Po’s signature blend of goofiness and determination as he grapples with this new role, especially when a new villain emerges. Enter the cunning and enigmatic shape-shifting sorceress, The Chameleon voiced with a chilling brilliance by Viola Davis. The Chameleon sets her sights on Po’s Staff of Wisdom, forcing him to confront a threat while also searching for the new Dragon Warrior.

This “passing of the torch” narrative is where Kung Fu Panda 4 truly excels. Po must learn to let go and trust in the next wave of heroes, a theme that resonates with audiences of all ages. A delightful newcomer, Awkwafina, lends her voice to a quick-witted corsac fox who becomes Po’s unlikely apprentice. Their unlikely partnership forms the heart of the film, reminding us that true strength can come from the most unexpected places.

kung fu panda 4

As expected from a DreamWorks production, the animation is nothing short of stunning. The fight sequences are beautifully choreographed, showcasing the power and grace of kung fu. Whether it’s Po facing off against The Chameleon’s illusions or the adventure sequences with his new partner, the action is a visual treat.

While, as mentioned, the humor might not be quite as side-splitting as previous entries, the film still manages to be laugh-out-loud funny at times. Po’s signature brand of physical comedy is on full display, and the new characters bring their brand of wit to the table. More importantly, the film’s core message about friendship, perseverance, and believing in yourself remains strong.

So, is Kung Fu Panda 4 the final chapter? The film certainly sets the stage for future adventures, leaving the door open for Po and his friends to return. But it also works beautifully as a standalone story, offering a satisfying conclusion to Po’s journey as Dragon Warrior. Whether this is the last we see of the Valley of Peace or not, Kung Fu Panda 4 is a delightful addition to the franchise, reminding us that the spirit of kung fu – and heroism – can live on in new generations.

About Kung Fu Panda 4

Synopsis: After Po is tapped to become the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace, he needs to find and train a new Dragon Warrior, while a wicked sorceress plans to re-summon all the master villains whom Po has vanquished to the spirit realm.

Directors: Mike Mitchell, Stephanie Stine

Writers: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Darren Lemke

Starring: Jack Black, Awkwafina, Viola Davis, Dustin Hoffman, Bryan Cranston, James Hong, Ian McShane, Ke Huy Quan, Ronny Chieng

Runtime: 1h 34m

Rated: PG

Releases: March 8, 2024

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