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Kung Fu Panda 4 (Christian Movie Review)

About the Film 

Everyone’s favorite dumpling-eating, butt-kicking Panda is rolling into theaters for another adventure. The latest entry in the popular animated franchise finds Po as an experienced “dragon warrior” who is still able to kick butt and take names (though he’s not great at the “names” part) but now must transition from warrior to “spiritual leader” and mentor. Kung Fu Panda 4 as a film parallels Po’s journey. It may make audiences wonder how many more adventures DreamWorks can squeeze out of their bankable franchise, but it also proves that the Panda is not past his prime just yet. Kung Fu Panda 4 may not feel as fresh or inventive as earlier entries in the series did, but it is a funny, wholesome, and entertaining tale for all ages.   

I have always enjoyed Kung Fu Panda films. The Jack Black-brand of wry humor makes me chuckle, and there is something refreshing about bucking the tropes of an unworthy protagonist who is burdened by responsibilities and instead offering a hero who is bursting with enthusiasm and loves being a hero. As a parent, it is also commendable that the series has veered away from concerning content areas. As with the previous films, there are none of the inappropriate gags aimed at adults, plotlines that wade into touchier areas of sexuality, or undesirable language that plagued many other recent animated films. Instead, Kung Fu Panda 4 offers clean and simple fun for all ages.   

Ensuring an animated film is wholesome seems to be half the battle for parents these days, but there is also the question of whether the film is, in fact, any good. Thankfully, this one passes that trial as well. Admittedly, it feels at times as though the filmmakers tossed all the tried-and-true elements of the series into a blender and spit out a new Kung Fu Panda adventure. The movie may not be all that inspired, but it is fun. Lots of fun, in fact.   

Kung Fu Panda 4 is action-heavy, with plenty of high-flying kung fu action sequences to keep young viewers entertained. As I mentioned earlier, it is also hilarious, with several laugh-out-loud gags and humorous quotes. While the film isn’t shooting for great emotional or thematic depth, there is enough character growth to give the story a sense of purpose beyond the entertaining action spectacle.    

Kung Fu Panda 4 unfolds like a greatest-hits mashup of the franchise thus far, yet Po demonstrates that he’s still got a few new tricks up his sleeve (that is, if he had sleeves). Several action sequences are infused with effective stylistic decisions, such as one that occurs in dark silhouettes. A new character voiced by Awkwafina (who has been making the rounds lately voicing animated characters) essentially takes the place of the Furious Five (Po’s sidekicks from the previous three films), who appear only briefly at the end. The classic characters are missed, but the new dynamic—which places Po in more of a mentor role—is endearing and allows the filmmakers to explore new ground. The Chameleon, the story’s antagonist, is not given much character depth, but her shape-shifting abilities are fun and used effectively.    

As the Dragon Warrior passes the torch on to a new generation, it is fair to wonder if Kung Fu Panda’s adventures are finally at an end. He may not have much new to offer audiences, but he proves that his established act has not yet grown stale. With a fun story, a positive message, and a wholesome delivery, the loveable Panda once again emerges victorious.

On the Surface

For Consideration

Beneath The Surface

Engage The Film

Embracing Change    

Kung Fu Panda 4 explores the theme of “change,” providing a positive perspective on an aspect of life that often stirs up anxiety or fear. When I asked my 9-year-old sons after the film what the central message was, they said, “That change can be a good thing.” At the same time, there are elements of that theme that may resonate with older viewers. For example, Po is essentially experiencing a mid-life crisis as he struggles to let go of his identity as the famous dragon warrior and allow the next generation to step up and thrive. Despite the relative simplicity of this theme, it offers lessons that all viewers can process in different ways.    

The film’s message is both that change can be good and the change—particularly behavioral change—is possible. Zhen (voiced by Awkwafina) is a sly fox. As an orphan who was raised among criminals, she has adopted a life of crime.  She finds herself in a tug-of-war between Po and The Chameleon, forced to change her ways or to remain the same. The Chameleon remarks, “For your sake and mine, never change.” As should be expected from an animated kid’s film, however, the movie resolves the conflict in a positive way.  

The film isn’t necessarily ripe with immediate biblical implications or parallels, but there is no shortage of positive applications for parents to discuss with their children, such as choosing to do the right thing even when others don’t, embracing changes as a positive opportunity, and learning to step aside so other people can have a turn.  

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1 Comment

  • by kelvin
    Posted March 20, 2024 11:47 am 0Likes

    interesting content, thanks for sharing

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