Jack Black returns in KUNG FU PANDA 4 as the voice of the unlikely panda hero, Po, in this delightful series. This time out he teams up with a sly little fox named Zhen, voiced with gusto by Awkwafina.


In KUNG FU PANDA one, two and three, Po had vanquished a bunch of bad guys known as the “Furious Five” to the spirit realm. Now he’s up against The Chameleon (voiced by Viola Davis), perhaps his toughest, most villainous opponent thus far. She’s sneaky --- and evil --- with her ability to shapeshift into whatever or whomever she chooses.


Po has been asked by his master, Shifu (voiced by Dustin Hoffman), a red panda, to give up his title of Dragon Warrior and find a replacement. It’s time for Po to become the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace, but Po can’t bring himself to initiate the change. Instead, he takes off with Zhen as his guide to find and quell The Chameleon.


Directed by Mike Mitchell from a screenplay by Darren Lemke, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, KUNG FU PANDA 4 features much of the raucous fun as the previous three installments. There are more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, including a tavern owned by bunnies taken over by a sinister band of thugs. The establishment is perched perilously on a cliff and when a brawl breaks out, the combatants scurry from one side to another to keep the bar from crashing into the sea below. It’s pretty darn funny.


Like all DreamWorks Animation productions, KUNG FU PANDA 4 is exceptionally animated, with bright and colorful set designs. It’s perfect for children --- though not too young as some of the images can be frightening. Adults will enjoy it, as well, since some of the humor is definitely for parents.


Opinion: Mild See It Now!




The KUNG FU PANDA franchise has a new director, a host of returning stars, plus a trio of new celebs to provide more amusement. Returning voice-over artists are Jack Black (as Po, a.k.a. Dragon Warrior), along with Dustin Hoffman, James Hong, Ian McShane and Bryan Cranston.


The new voices belong to Awkwafina, as Zhen, a criminal fox, Viola Davis, as The Chameleon --- she can adopt any shape she desires instantly --- and “The Daily Show” favorite Ronnie Cheing, as Captain Fish, who lives in the mouth of a pelican. Awkwafina, especially, is hilarious and Davis is appropriately nefarious as the villainess.


KUNG FU PANDA 4, is again written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger, joined here by Darren Lemke. And Mike Mitchell, a long-time Disney creator, directs for the first time along with Stephanie Ma Stine.


Mitchell’s version is entertaining enough, although my laugh-out-loud chuckles ceased after the first half of the film. Black and Awkwafina spar with great hilarity for a while, but that all tends to diminish as the story progresses. The movie features endless battles and visual effects which get a bit redundant, and even at a mere 94 minutes it could have been shortened by 10 minutes or so.


More importantly, much of the humor is squarely directed at adult audiencesA, but young children will still be entertained. And the DreamWorks Animation efforts are frequently brilliant as one might expect.


Opinion:  Wait For VOD