Kung Fu Panda 4: Full of Heart

When Kung Fu Panda originally came out, I loved the comedy, the humor of the films. Even though the films are marketed to families, I loved the animation and Jack Black’s comedic style in the movies. When I first heard about Kung Fu Panda 4, I wasn’t certain that the movie would be able to recapture that original magic. After watching the animated film, I am pleased that Jack Black is as funny in this movie as any of the others. Awkafina was a hilarious addition and Viola Davis plays a credible villain as Chameleon. Best of all, the movie is full of heart and tons of laughter.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is an animated martial arts comedy directed by Mike Mitchell, co-directed by Stephanie Ma Stine (in her feature directorial debut), written by Darren Lemke and the writing team of Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger. The film brings back Jack Black as Po, the Dragon Warrior and Dustin Hoffman as Master Shifu. Master Shifu tells Po that he must find his successor and take up a role of spiritual leadership. The problem is that Po is much more comfortable kicking butt than leading and worse, when he finds out there is a new villain that wants to conquer the valley of peace, he teams up with a thief, Zhen (Awkafina) , a fox who can lead him to Chameleon (Viola Davis). With the help of Zhen, his dads Mr. Ping (James Hong) and Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), can Po defeat Chameleon, who has all the abilities of Po’s enemies?  

One of the best elements of the movie is the comedy. Both Jack Black and Awkafina have a fantastic dynamic, playing off each other so well I found myself laughing every few moments. What makes it work so well is the contrast between the two characters. Po is optimistic and believes in others while Zhen is cynical and street savvy, willing to trick others to get what she needs. Each has lessons that the other needs to learn but they are witty and funny in how they interact with each other. 

The martial arts are fantastic. But it is all in aid of the comedy. The pair have a fight in a seaside inn and the fight makes the building almost fall in the ocean. The pair run from guards in Juniper City and their escapades make for some of the funniest scenes in the movie, especially when we get the chance to meet Zhen’s old crew, that includes three ferocious bunnies that totally steal the movie. 

While the funniest scenes happen between Po and Zhen, they aren’t the only ones that provide the laughter in the movie. Bryan Cranston and James Hong are equally funny as they trek after Po to prevent him from getting killed by Chameleon. Dustin Hoffman is hilarious as Shifu and Viola Davis has some very witty lines as Chameleon.  

The story is full of heart. While the laughter will entertain you, the story’s message is wonderful, encouraging people to be willing to change and grow. Po has to find a way to embrace leadership and Zhen finds hidden depths within her cynical self. The voice acting is excellent and this is a worthy successor to the previous films. 

While it is predictable in most of the elements, it is also family friendly and if you loved the previous Kung Fu Panda films, you will be highly entertained with this movie as well. Jack Black is as good as ever, Awkwafina brings tons of laughs and Viola Davis is superb as Chameleon as is Ian McShane as Tai Lung. The film has all the old familiar elements that made me love the original films. Families will love this one just as much.

Rating: 4 out of 5 dumplings.

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