Kung Fu Panda 4 (2024) | Review

 2024. PG. 94 mins. Directed by Mike Mitchell & Stephanie Stine

The Kung Fu Panda franchise has always felt like one of the more underrated series from the likes of Dreamworks. Always flying under the radar but still managing to be successful both financially and critically, the Kung Fu Panda movies have been fun and entertaining not just for kids but for adults as well. After an eight year hiatus the franchise returns with Part 4, making it one of only two franchises from Dreamworks to have four movies along with the Shrek series.

Continuing where the previous movie left off, Po (Jack Black) has been tapped to become the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace. This means he has to find and train a new Dragon Warrior to take his place. While Po is searching for a new warrior to train a new threat emerges in the form of The Chameleon (Viola Davis), a sorceress who plans to re-summon all the master villains whom Po has vanquished to the spirit realm. With the help of Zhen (Awkwafina), a potential candidate to become a Dragon Warrior, they will work together to stop The Chameleon from unleashing havoc on the city.

This series has always been one of the best from Dreamworks. The storytelling and characters have always been a huge advantage for the franchise. Each movie lets you connect with the characters and gets you invested in where the story is going to go. Sadly, Kung Fu Panda 4 is the first one in the series that struggles in the storytelling. While all the character interactions work, despite this entry not featuring The Furious Five, the story feels less engaged than in previous entries. It feels like something is missing and it could be the absence of The Furious Five as they have been important parts of the first three movies, although they do make a brief appearance. There also isn't much here that feels new or exciting. Everything feels like it's hitting all the same beats that have happened in the previous entries and there's a feeling that the series may be running out of steam.

While the story here isn't up to par with the previous movies, there are aspects that do work. Adding Awkwafina to the cast as Zhen is a big plus. Her character works well as a sidekick for Po and Awkwafina and Jack Black have great chemistry with one another. Jack Black is once again a great presence as Po. He embodies this character so well and makes him a joy to watch. The Chameleon as the villain is the best since the first movie. Having a villain who can transform into other characters makes for an interesting dynamic and having the character voiced by Viola Davis works incredibly well. All of the action sequences are fun to watch, and they feature some of the best action in the series. Everything is so vibrant and colorful, it's hard to enjoy those moments throughout the movie.

Despite some missteps, Kung Fu Panda 4 is still mildly entertaining. There is enough here for the kids to enjoy, and it won't be a chore for most parents to sit through. The voice cast is great once again and there are some fun action sequences. It just doesn't stick the landing quite as well as the other movies in the series.

Rating: 5.5/10