Kung Fu Panda 4 review: Not the franchise’s best, but a bonus dumpling in the bamboo steamer

Kung Fu Panda 4 review: Not the franchise’s best, but a bonus dumpling in the bamboo steamer post thumbnail image

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie review, The fourth instalment isn’t best of the lot, just like Awkwafina is no Angelina Jolie. But they ably take the franchise forward.

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie review: It took eight years for the makers to come up with the fourth installment. The long haul begs the question: Is the new movie worth the wait? I’d say, just about. It’s far from the best of the franchise (that would be 1, or 2), but is nonetheless a worthy addition to the franchise, a bonus dumpling in the bamboo steamer.

Kung Fu Panda 4: What’s new?

Co-directed by Mike Mitchell and Stephanie Ma Stine, and co-written by Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, and Darren Lemke, Kung Fu Panda 4 sets the tone for the next step in Po’s spiritual journey: Barely three parts after he gained confidence as the Dragon Warrior, he must relinquish the Staff of Wisdom to the next best successor and graduate into the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.

This new chapter in Po’s life is organic and relatable: After becoming the best versions of ourselves, we must give up all the glory, make way for a new contender, and meditate under the cherry blossoms to find inner peace. But that stands in conflict with who Po inherently is: He finds inner peace only when he’s on an adventure. As he profoundly says in the movie, “If you want to kick butt, you must seek butt to be kicked.”

Once again, Kung Fu Panda strikes the perfect balance between snappy one-liners like these and the slapstick comedy of its rolling-stone action. Jack Black is in no mood to hang his boots, as he lends all the right punches and kicks to Po, both verbally and physically. When Po is doing all the action or messing it up, it feels like that’s just Jack Black dressed up as a panda. Rarely have the voice and the character become one as seamlessly as this before.

Awkwafina as Zhen brings a whole new energy to Po’s world. Her slyness is poles apart from his full-bodied rumbling presence. She also turns out to be an apt litmus test at this stage of Po’s journey when he’s resisting change. Should he look beyond the Furious Five and rest his trust in a new partner-in-crime? Or should he learn to be on his own, like his arch nemesis wants him to be.

Speaking of that, Viola Davis’s gravitas lifts up the stakes of this action adventure. Her resounding voice is laced with threat in every word and lends a larger-than-life authority to her petite lizard-like figure. The idea of having a shapeshifter as the villain is interesting since change and transformation are the very beasts Po is battling in his head, but it’s also a superpower ripe with possibilities that hasn’t been enchased to its optimum potential.

For what the writers lack in developing on that front, they make up for by introducing us to a new subset in the Kung Fu Panda world: Juniper City. Po’s urban adventure helps him come to terms with his tiny space in the universe. It also makes for a fresh canvas with novel elements: bulls charging across the city as the police force, a Tanggu (Chinese drum) as the portal to an underground crime scene called the Den, and the hustle-bustle of the city making people stick countless ‘Wanted’ criminal posters on walls while not even looking at the very same criminals standing next to them. My favourite new character, however, is a pelican drinking away so that the fish in her beak can thrive. Watch it to see how much fun it truly is.

What’s missing?

Some of the new characters are fun, but they can’t fill the glaring void left by the Furious Five. They were the OG gang of Po, and their absence seems more forcefitted than organic. It makes sense for Po to venture out of his comfort zone and make new friends, but non-speaking cameos by his former associates only remind us of what this movie could’ve been had they been added to the mix too. Their cameos seem more tokenistic than built-in.

Kung Fu Panda 4 also feels like Hans Zimmer is on his off day. Coming a week after Denis Villeneuve’s grand and exhilarating Dune: Part 2,Hans’ score for the animated movie isn’t even a patch on his greatness. He, along with Tenacious D, recreates Britney Spears’ One More Time for the end-credits, but it severely lacks the bite of the original. The action and stunts have been propped up in this part, but they aren’t as married to the humour or the drama as they were in previous instalments.

Is it then time for Kung Fu Panda to make way for the next big thing because it may lose its flavour? Maybe not. Jack Black still has a lot of Po left in him, and the possibility of him fighting bigger evils alongside Zhen and Furious Five make for exciting prospects. The intervention Kung Fu Panda probably needs is a fresh voice, a new director who could be the Master Shifu to Po: push him to go on newer adventures, both physical and spiritual.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post