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Kung Fu Panda 4

It’s been 7 years since he explored his lineage, and Po (Jack Black) is back in the latest installment of the Kung Fu Panda franchise. Po teams up with a new face, voiced by Awkwafina, to stop his most powerful adversary yet. Despite some interesting, albeit unoriginal, developments and some of that trademark Jack Black fuelled humour, in Kung Fu Panda 4 the magic might have finally fizzled out.


Po is tasked with finding a successor to be the new Dragon Warrior, but the emergence of a powerful shape-shifting sorceress puts those plans on hold. Alongside a new quick fingered companion, he must travel to a new world to face his latest adversary head on. One final adventure before Po takes the next step in his journey. 


Quite like the fourth Toy Story film, a fourth installment in the Kung Fu Panda franchise wasn’t entirely necessary. Up to this point Po had fulfilled his hero’s journey as the Dragon Warrior, and in the third film even reunited with his long lost father Li (Bryan Cranston). Kung Fu Panda 4 is framed as a legacy sequel. Po is tasked with taking the place of his original mentor, Master Oogway as the Spritual Leader of the Valley of Peace, and therefore must find his replacement. But, of course, he is dubious about taking the step, and he doesn’t believe anyone is right for the job despite Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) stating that he will know when he knows. 

Kung Fu Panda 4

Through taking this route, Kung Fu Panda 4 doesn’t take any bold steps narratively. It’s clear from the beginning who Po is going to choose as his successor and that he’ll eventually feel the time is right to move onto his next role after that final adventure. Maybe it’s naïve to expect an animated film aimed at children to take some risks, but a bit more conflict laid out for Po wouldn’t have gone amiss. 

Amongst the new players is the villainous Chameleon (Viola Davis), who can shapeshift into anyone she wants. Davis is, as ever, brilliant here with her voice work, channelling some of the deranged energy from her stint as Dr. Gaul in The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes. This is also where the animation really shines. A highlight being when we first see her transform from the small statured chameleon into a towering elephant. Ke Huy Quan also adds some fun to the voice cast as Han, a pangolin and leader of the underground Den of Thieves.

Kung Fu Panda 4

The most fun in the film is harvested from a side plot which follows Po’s paternal and adoptive fathers, who adventure just behind Po following him as they are worried he may get hurt. Both Bryan Cranston and James Hong are brilliant together as they unfold the chaos both Po and Zhen leave behind them. 

Kung Fu Panda 4 has a fairly fun final set piece. Where Po, Zhen, and The Chameleon go toe to toe. It includes cameos from some of Po’s previous enemies with Ian McShane returning as Tai Lung. A barrage of cool fighting is topped off by Zhen saving the day and proving herself in front of Po. 

Kung Fu Panda has enough fun to keep it going. However, there's a sense that even the people involved in telling the story know that the franchise may have run its course. But one final adventure with animation's most unlikely hero is nothing to be sneered at.


Rating When Evil Lurks



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