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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "Kung Fu Panda 4"


Most films that garner more than one sequel are reserved for sci-fi, horror, or kids’ films.  Even though I’m still unsure about where I would put the number of films in a series to constitute the term “franchise” (which is a term I feel is severely overused), with Kung Fu Panda it may qualify given not only the number of films that there are but adding the TV specials, shorts, and things of its ilk.  Now, we have the latest in that series with the aptly named Kung Fu Panda 4.

 

Po (Jack Black) has really embraced the title of Dragon Warrior, and his work has kept the Valley of Peace a place of celebration and happiness.  Now that he also has the Staff of Wisdom, Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) tells him that he needs to pick a successor to become the Dragon Warrior so he can go to the final level as the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.  Po is not sure he is ready to give up being the Dragon Warrior but he understands what he must do, but before that he must defend us all one more time against The Chameleon (Viola Davis).  The Chameleon is a sorceress who wants to take over the realm by accessing the Spirit Realm to bring back all of the masters that have crossed over and steal their kung fu abilities for herself.  Po winds up with a thief in a fox named Zhen (Awkwafina), who knows how to get to The Chameleon, and their adventure begins.

 

From what I have read, there are at least two more films planned for this series so for those waiting for some kind of finality here it could honestly go either way.  There is no “cliff hanger” to speak of, and I actually kind of dig the way this was done.  It is truly a story that can work independently from the others, so if this is your jumping-on point you won’t be lost.  I was a bit concerned about some of the choices made as it pertains to characters included in the story, but that is all handled really well since this is more about Po and Zhen than anything else.

 

This leads me to my next point: if you worry about that number next to the title, don’t.  One of the things that I really enjoyed the most about Kung Fu Panda 4 is the fact that DreamWorks can still find fresh stories that don’t feel like they are simply mailing this one in to cash in on the success of the previous films and things adjacent to it.  I found myself fully engaged in the story and even laughed out loud a couple of times.  I also appreciated that there wasn’t any moments where I felt like certain jokes or situations needed to be discussed amongst family members afterwards; this is true family fun.

 

Whether there is more from this franchise (there it is) or not, I would be actually OK if there is at least one more film.  There is something about DreamWorks and how they do their films that I simply find enjoyable and escapist in a way that most of the other studios have strayed away from in recent years, and I am here for it.

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