Movie Review: Kung Fu Panda 4 (Mitchell, 2024)

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Movie: Kung Fu Panda 4

Production Company: DreamWorks Animation

Director: Mike Mitchell

Producer: Rebecca Huntley

Scriptwriters: Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, Darren Lemke

Main Cast: Jack Black, Awkwafina, Bryan Cranston, James Hong, Ian McShane

Release Date: March 8th 2024 (US)

Running Time: 94 minutes

Certificate: PG


Well, that was a letdown. Now are we reading too much into what is effectively a kids film about talking animals who can do martial arts? Yes. However, when DreamWorks set the standard as high as they have with the Kung Fu Panda films, it’s only fair to hold them to said standard. With that in mind, Kung Fu Panda 4 is very much a downward step even after Kung Fu Panda 3. Despite it being a decently fun watch, the complete relegation of the Furious Five and almost recycled villain makes this easily the weakest film in the franchise. So without further ado let’s kick straight on into my review of the film.


Kung Fu Panda 4 follows Po (Black) as he cuts a deal with a sinister thief: Zhen (Awkwafina) who Po catches trying to steal ancient weapons. Whilst imprisoned, Zhen tells Po about the return of the best villain in the franchise, Tai Lung (McShane), which is ultimately proven to be fake after the emergence of the Chameleon. The Chameleon has the ability to shapeshift into any animal she wants and has the ability to steal other kung fu master’s abilities. Now that isn’t at all similar to Kai at all…. Anyway, Po and Zhen must put their differences aside to stop the Chameleon lest the Valley of Peace fall into complete chaos.


Jack Black’s Performance in Kung Fu Panda 4

Now whilst there may be very obvious issues with the villain and a distinct lack of Furious Five other than the ending, the film is still a fine enough watch. This is mostly going to be determined by your love of the franchise’s heart and still kind of soul: Jack Black. Whilst it does feel a bit like a greatest hits tour with many of the same jokes from the first three films, there’s still enough in this performance to keep the film moving somewhat well.

Because lord knows it isn’t Awkwafina’s performance as Zhen which is again going to be a breaking point for a lot of returning Kung Fu Panda fans…. Anyway, after that digression the film will still have something for fans of the trilogy to like but it definitely doesn’t hit those same heights which understandable given Kung Fu Panda 3 came out nearly 8 years ago.

Recycled Elements in Kung Fu Panda 4

Now the biggest problem with Kung Fu Panda 4 is how it mostly recycles ideas from previous instalments. Take for example, the villain. Now whilst the Chameleon and Kai aren’t exact copies there are definite lazy similarities. Firstly, both come out of the Spirit World with the intent of using other Kung Fu Master’s powers to claim revenge on Shifu, Po and or the Valley of Peace in general. And if that’s not enough, both have similar powers to either control or create zombified versions of their Kung Fu Master victims. Maybe they just hoped no one would remember if they ripped themselves off…

Also, this film treads many of the same points when it comes to Po and his dual dad buddy comedy. For no other reason, they decide to have the two dads open a restaurant which very quickly gets lost. Because so much of this ground was covered in Kung Fu Panda 3, this leaves both characters treading water without anything meaningful in the plot until they lazily need to reinsert them. Anyway, it sure feels like a Tarantino tribute act in that if no one remembers what you’re ripping off then maybe it’s ok.


To summarise Kung Fu Panda 4, this is a mediocre and underwhelming fourth instalment which will infuriate long time fans of the franchise. This is thanks to its recycled villain and lack of meaningful involvement for the Furious Five. However, it is an alright film if you’ve never seen the prior trilogy and just want something to watch and switch your brain off to. Now, hopefully DreamWorks doesn’t greenlight a fifth film despite the box office success….

Overall Rating: 5/10 – Average

Target Audience: 8+
Content Warning: Mild Violence and Gore, Mild Frightening and Intense Scenes

Recommendation: No