‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ Fails To Live Up to Predecessors

by Dasun Panapitiya ‘24

After a critically acclaimed trilogy, Kung Fu Panda fans were treated to the trailer of the fourth installment after eight years. With Director Mike Mitchell’s previous works including the disappointing fourth installments of Shrek and Trolls, there wasn’t necessarily much to expect from Kung Fu Panda 4. Still, the movie could have built on the set formula of the first three films and added some creativity to produce a winning film. Instead, Kung Fu Panda 4 is lifeless, with a script that seems as if it might have been written by AI and not humans.

Kung Fu Panda 4 follows Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) as they travel to Juniper City to deal with the threat of The Chameleon (Viola Davis). Black is an obvious staple of the Kung Fu Panda franchise and other returning voices include Bryan Cranston as Li Shan, James Hong as Mr. Ping, and Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu. There was also a surprising return of Ian McShane, who played the main antagonist Tai Lung from the first film.

Davis, however, stole the show, giving the best voice performance of the movie. She maintains the silly tone of the film while still making the Chameleon a very menacing villain. Many fans expected Awkwafina to be a subpar part of the film, but it works to give her more of a main character role compared to being comic relief.

The film itself leaves much to be desired. A lot of what made the previous three films enjoyable was due to the amazing amount of emotional depth and humor that hits with both children and adults. Those films felt like actual humans took time to perfect them, especially considering the first two films, which are some of the most enjoyable and emotionally driven masterpieces in animated film history. The fourth film, however, struggles to hold a candle to its predecessors. It had barely any soul or emotional depth to it, and the comedy felt unoriginal and overused. It’s as if they gave an AI the script of the first three movies and ran with the script that was spat out by it.

Kung Fu Panda 4 still excels with its amazing animation and flashy action sequences and while it maintains enough charm to the point where it’s watchable, it was disappointing and felt fake. The Kung Fu Panda series would have been better off as a trilogy.

Grade: C-