‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ Review: Trouble in Juniper City

by The Technical Blogs


“Kung Fu Panda 4,” like previous installments of this DreamWorks franchise, punches above its weight.

Once again starring Jack Black as the gullible martial arts master Po, the animated film melds together wisecracking comedy and sprightly action sequences with a message of kindness, inner peace and self-discovery.

In this movie, directed by Mike Mitchell, Po grapples with his new responsibility as the spiritual leader of the Valley of Peace, taking the place of his mentor Shifu (Dustin Hoffman). Shifu urges Po to name a successor, but Po is reluctant to give up a life of butt-kicking in exchange for doling out wisdom.

The halfhearted search for Po’s replacement is cut short with the arrival of a thieving fox, Zhen (Awkwafina). Threatened with jail time, she offers information on a mysterious new villain, the Chameleon (Viola Davis), who threatens to take over the Valley with the power of Po’s previous adversaries combined.

As Po and Zhen set out for the Chameleon’s palace in faraway Juniper City, Po’s two guardians — his biological father, Li Shan (Bryan Cranston) and adopted father, Mr. Ping (James Hong) — follow him in comical pursuit.

Witty gags abound (there’s a standout “bull in the china shop” sequence), and Black and Awkwafina make a charming lead duo, particularly when Po encounters the sights, sounds and bountiful food of Juniper City. The art direction is also a step above the typical animated blockbuster. But what’s missing are the antics of Po’s “Furious Five” compatriots from the earlier films, like Angelina Jolie’s Tigress and Jackie Chan’s Monkey, who are written off in this installment.

Still, don’t expect a total downgrade: This is an enjoyable “Kung Fu Panda” movie, even if it’s missing some of the pizazz of the earlier ones.

Kung Fu Panda 4
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. In theaters.


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