Skip to Content

Kung Fu Panda 4 Review: Po’s Worthy Return to the Big Screen

Kung Fu Panda 4 delivers a worthy story to bring everyone’s favorite panda back to the big screen as he searches for his successor as Dragon Warrior.

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie review

(from left) Po (Jack Black) and Zhen (Awkwafina) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

Did we need Kung Fu Panda 4? Probably not. But it sure is a fun addition to the franchise and delivers a story that is worthy of Po’s return to the big screen. Jack Black once again voices everyone’s favorite panda, Po, as he goes on one more adventure. His time as the Dragon Warrior is nearing the end, as he is tasked with rising in the ranks as the next Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.

When the Chameleon (Viola Davis), a dastardly villain who can take on the shape of anyone, tries to steal his Staff of Wisdom, he needs the help of a shifty thief named Zhen (Awkwafina), who claims she can track her down. In an effort to connect the previous three films to this one, and to rattle Po, the Chameleon often takes the form of enemies from his past.

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie review

(from left) Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) and Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4, directed by Mike Mitchell.

For fans of the Kung Fu Panda franchise, it is exciting to not only see Po on the big screen again — Jack Black voices Po in the recent Netflix series Kung Fu Panda: The Dragon Knight as well — but to also see and hear the return of many fan favorite characters. This fourth film does a wonderful job of bringing in ties from the previous films, while also remaining something completely new.

While there is no need to have seen the first three movies in order to understand this one, there will be lots of rewards for long time fans and those who have seen them. Kung Fu Panda 4 feels like the start of a new trilogy, introducing new characters, such as Zhen, who could continue on the legacy while also welcoming in a new generation of fans.

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie review

It is incredible to see how far advancements in animation have come from the first time we met Po in 2008. The styles used in this film are absolutely stunning. From the way the fur looks and moves, to the design of the scales on the reptiles, it is easy to get lost in the design of them. Kung Fu Panda 4 utilizes several animation styles, perfectly combining them to create a unique look when the story calls for it. 

Speaking of the story, this is one that is truly worthy of bringing Po back to the big screen after all these years. It is exciting and entertaining, with some truly massive and intense fight sequences. It should come as no surprise that there is a lot of humor and emotion mixed in as well, something that Jack Black excels at and one of the reasons he is a great choice to voice a character as lovable and kind as Po. 

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie review

(Center) Chameleon (Viola Davis) in Kung Fu Panda 4 directed by Mike Mitchell.

A movie is only as good as its villain however, and Chameleon is terrifying at times. There is something scary about a creature that can be anything or anyone, lurking in the shadows or standing right in front of you without you even knowing it. This was a brilliant choice made by the writers, allowing for a logical and easy way to connect the previous films by bringing in those villains, without feeling like a clips show. 

Viola Davis is a great choice to voice this character, which she proves over and over as she is sure to send chills down everyone’s spine. At the same time, she isn’t too scary for kids watching, which is important in a family movie. She is just enough of a threat to make you dislike her, but not enough to give you nightmares.

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie review

Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4, directed by Mike Mitchell.

The flip side of this being a family movie is that there is going to be jokes that are included to make younger audience members. Yes, that’s right. The fart and butt jokes. While most adults will likely roll their eyes, the kids will be giggling their little hearts out. There might be one too many in Kung Fu Panda 4, but it doesn’t ruin the movie. 

The film is predictable, sure, but that doesn’t make the journey any less entertaining. It teaches some great lessons for kids about not being afraid to step outside of your comfort zone, as well as finding the confidence within yourself. 

Awkwafina is a wonderful addition to the cast, and her chemistry with Jack Black shines through their characters. It is clear that they recorded in the booth together, which brings the film to another level. The Furious Five might not be a major part of Kung Fu Panda 4, but they are certainly included in the story where they can be. This is another way that this fourth movie separates itself from the previous three, allowing it to be something new while still being a part of the Kung Fu Panda universe.

Kung Fu Panda 4 movie review

(from left) The Chameleon (Viola Davis) and Po (Jack Black) in DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda 4, directed by Mike Mitchell.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is a lot of fun, and something that the whole family is sure to enjoy. It deserves to be seen on the big screen for the gorgeous animation alone. It is exciting to see Po back on the big screen, however this movie is made for everyone — even those who have not seen the first three Kung Fu Panda movies. 

Oh, and stick through the credits for an incredible rendition of Hit Me Baby One More Time, a Britney Spears cover by Tenacious D.

Rating: 4 out of 5

NEXT: Iwájú Review: New Disney Animated Series Pushes Boundaries

Kung Fu Panda 4 poster

About Kung Fu Panda 4

After three death-defying adventures defeating world-class villains with his unmatched courage and mad martial arts skills, Po, the Dragon Warrior (Golden Globe nominee Jack Black), is called upon by destiny to … give it a rest already. More specifically, he’s tapped to become the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.

That poses a couple of obvious problems. First, Po knows as much about spiritual leadership as he does about the paleo diet, and second, he needs to quickly find and train a new Dragon Warrior before he can assume his new lofty position.

Even worse, there’s been a recent sighting of a wicked, powerful sorceress, Chameleon (Oscar® winner Viola Davis), a tiny lizard who can shapeshift into any creature, large or small. And Chameleon has her greedy, beady little eyes on Po’s Staff of Wisdom, which would give her the power to re-summon all the master villains whom Po has vanquished to the spirit realm.

So, Po’s going to need some help. He finds it (kinda?) in the form of crafty, quick-witted thief Zhen (Golden Globe winner Awkwafina), a corsac fox who really gets under Po’s fur but whose skills will prove invaluable. In their quest to protect the Valley of Peace from Chameleon’s reptilian claws, this comedic odd-couple duo will have to work together. In the process, Po will discover that heroes can be found in the most unexpected places.

Kung Fu Panda 4 comes to theaters March 8th, 2024.