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Kung Fu Panda 4 Review: a Panda Ruminates About Legumes


Thu, April 04

The Kung Fu Panda franchise is known for its blood-curdling suspense, power-packed fighting scenes, and rib-tantalizing humor. But in this installment of the animated series, it fails to deliver what its counterparts did.

Po, a comical and ironically colossal Kung Fu master, refuses to accept his tenure as the legendary Dragon Warrior ending. His grim red panda mentor - Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) - urges him to find a replacement. So, Po embarks on a tepid journey, but it comes to a halt with the incarceration of a furtive fox, Zhen (Awkwafina).

As a way to get out, Zhen offers some insider tips on a looming threat, the Chameleon (Viola Davis). This shape-shifting sorceress wishes to spread her reign over the Valley with unprecedented powers. Po, alongside Zhen, commences the journey to the Chameleon's imposing palace and figure.

Unfortunately, Director Mike Mitchell decides to cut the synergized 5 (Masters Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Crane, and Viper) from the cast, leaving behind an undercooked plot. Simply saying that all five masters are on separate missions is not enough. I would’ve loved to see a longer flashback.

On a better note, the new characters were introduced naturally and structurally layered. For instance, the new troubled sidekick, Zhen, grapples with trauma as an isolated fox and her experiences as a belittled thief. And the Chameleon deals with her ulterior jealousy of other Kung Fu masters and warriors as a pint-sized reptilian.

They dismissed her as “too small” for martial arts, so now she's back, hungry for vengeance. Hopefully, the new characters won't topple the plot, given their well-cooked backstories.

Visually, "Kung Fu Panda 4" dazzles with its stunning animation and lush landscapes. From tranquil bamboo forests to towering ornate palaces, every frame is a testament to the artistry of DreamWorks Animation.

But simply put - Kung Fu Panda 4 is overly flowery and a comical bust. It's ransacked with forsaken clichés and crowd-directed jokes. Most of the humor felt unnatural and geared towards the audience. To reference the title of this review, the funniest part for me was Po “snarting.” His sneeze charged through his derriere into a squealing alto fart, causing the audience to erupt into raucous laughter.

Another humorous moment occurs when Po is meditating under a blossoming tree, and his inner mantras shift from 'inner peace' to 'dinner please' and then to 'dinner with peas.’ However, the other half-witted jests fell dramatically short, like Po and Zhen's hodgepodged demoralized crew refusing to accept the importance of morality and doing things out of genuine kindness. That felt heavily doctored.

The main problem with Juniper City's plot is the conflict; Po and Zhen's fight against the Chameleon is pockmarked by pacing issues and plot holes. I recall watching the film already bored out of my mind, witnessing the anticlimactic brawl, and in the blink of an eye, the credits started rolling. Look - I get it; no one likes a movie with just bark and bite, but this DreamWorks installment was just a whiny cry compared to the franchise's previous movies.

My advice - get rid of the screen time waste of a side plot with the Po's dads. Additionally, expunge the clichés. I don't want to spoil the movie, but it's unbelievably predictable and chances are, you'll spoil it yourself. The fallacious status quo is that children's movies are meant to be comically unjust and creased. But cinematography is a medium to impart sage lessons, not just to deliver wisecracking drolleries. Mitchell fails to construct a take-home message. We could just go with the good ole' “never give up" or “good vs. evil," but the conflict itself was too short to emphasize these concepts.

Therefore, it's time to halt the Kung Fu Panda Express train before it humiliatingly derails again at Station 5. The animated world needs novel ideas like “The Boy and The Heron." Every now and then, it's thrilling to see a sequel to a movie like “Inside Out” or “Moana," but dangling extra parts is disappointing and discordant.

‘KUNG FU PANDA 4’ has already grossed over $340M at the worldwide box office.The film had a $85M budget. pic.twitter.com/y3tmzSFK2B

— The Hollywood Handle (@HollywoodHandle) March 31, 2024

Now, don't get me wrong - it's a good children's movie… but for semi-catatonic Gen Alpha members. The point of fact is that children's movies don't have to be bad. I would pick so many animated younger-audience-geared movies over anything on any given day.

Let's take a look at Moana, where the humor is masterfully alchemized with vibrant animation and sui generis characters. Or Encanto, with its lyrically crafted songs and a metamorphosed cast.

As I said, if the funniest parts of a movie are a giant fluffy panda passing gas and ruminating about legumes, then it'll be a waste of money and time.

1.4/5 Stars

Rated PG. Total time: 1 hour 34 minutes. In theaters.

Dev Shah
50k+ pageviews

Writer since Sep, 2023 · 30 published articles

I am a high school sophomore living in Largo, Florida. My goal as a journalist and interviewer is to help our generation of teenagers by providing inspirational writing and exploring complex topics. I focus on mental health, self-love, entertainment reviews, and narrative experiences. My work has been published in The Washington Post, Tampa Bay Times, Fortune Magazine, Education Week, and more local papers. I use my experiences as the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion to guide my writing and pieces, and my vast verbal knowledge to best articulate my thoughts.