Kung Fu Panda 4 Review | A Passable Fun Watch Sequel With Glimpses of Franchise-Fatigue

It’s been almost eight years since the last Kung Fu Panda movie was released, and I have to admit that there was an equal amount of excitement and fear in my mind when I entered the cinema hall to watch the fourth instalment in the franchise, Kung Fu Panda 4. The excitement was obviously because of the fact it is one of those rare franchises that mixed the choreographed action superbly with dialogue-humour in scripts with great characters and engaging stories. The fear was about the possibility of the franchise running out of steam and coming out with something that wasn’t funny. While I am extremely glad that I had a fairly nice time watching this 94-minute-long film, I must admit that this plan to revamp the franchise with new characters is struggling to attain the charm the previous parts had.

The dragon warrior Po is living this heroic life, and he is truly enjoying it. At that point, Master Shifu tells him that he must think about finding his successor as the Dragon Warrior. Reluctant to find a successor, Po encountered this bandit fox named Zhen while he was trying to protect all the ancient weapons from Zhen. Amid that, Po got to know about the return of Tai Lung. While preparing to take him down, Zhen gives Po input about The Chameleon, who has a hand in the return of Lung. The journey of Zhen and Po to fix the situation and what all happens is what we see in Kung Fu Panda 4.

The signature thing about the Kung Fu Panda movies was the way they managed to make it a laugh riot through a great balance of visual comedy and dialogue humour. Yes, the consistency has deteriorated slightly as the franchise progressed. But still, I would say there were a lot of memorable hilarious moments in each film that one would talk about after the movie and would have the same laughter. Kung Fu Panda 4 is not a film that lacks that humour quality. But the abundance of such hilarious moments is kind of missing here. The proverb stuff and the murmuring lines of the villain about the red moon, etc., were some of the noticeable moments.

The writing is somewhat becoming a bit template-ish. The decision to bring back all the villains at one point felt good as it sort of gave nostalgia flashes. The antagonist Chameleon, voiced by Viola Davis, was perhaps the weakest one in the entire franchise. The choreography of some of the funny fight sequences, especially the one where a fart awakens the guards of the Chameleon, was really funny. Other than Po, there is a considerable amount of reduction in the screen time of many characters. The Furious Five is not there in this story, and even Master Shifu may have a total screen time of 10 minutes. Mr. Ping and Li Shan are the only reprising characters here with some significant purpose.

As always, Jack Black’s voice acting as Po is hilarious. The pauses and the voice modulation just make some of those lines outrageously funny. And I must say that the synchronization of his voice with the animated expression of Po is at times so good that you almost forget that it is another human being’s sound for an animated Panda. Awkwafina makes her debut as Zhen, and her typical chatty style really works for that character who is not so great with obeying stuff. Dustin Hoffman, James Hong and Bryan Cranston reprised their roles from the previous films along with Viola Davis, who gave voice to The Chameleon.

When you compare it with the three films that came before this one, Mike Mitchell’s Kung Fu Panda 4 is definitely lacking that humour high points. But clocking at a brisk 94 minutes, I wouldn’t really say the movie is lacking entertainment. Tina Fey, during one of her Golden Globes gigs, famously said, “This is Hollywood, and if something kind of works, they’ll just keep doing it until everybody hates it.” I really hope the studio would choose creativity over milking reputation in future instalments of this franchise.

Final Thoughts

Mike Mitchell's Kung Fu Panda 4 is definitely lacking that humour high points. But clocking at a brisk 94 minutes, I wouldn't really say the movie is lacking entertainment


Green: Recommended Content

Orange: The In-Between Ones

Red: Not Recommended


By Aswin Bharadwaj

Founder and editor of Lensmen Reviews.