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‘Kung Fu Panda 4’ delights audiences with nostalgia, humor

Kung+Fu+Panda+4+delights+audiences+with+nostalgia%2C+humor
Collegian | Madelyn Hendricks

“Kung Fu Panda 4” takes viewers on yet another funny and endearing adventure featuring everyone’s favorite panda, the Dragon Warrior, and an hour and a half of beautifully animated visuals.

The fourth installment in the beloved animated movie series from DreamWorks Animation, “Kung Fu Panda 4” was released March 8, eight years after the third movie, and was directed by Mike Mitchell and Stephanie Stine.

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Jack Black returned to voice the hero of the story, Po, as he sets out to avoid his responsibilities. No, seriously, that’s the plot.

Surprisingly, the story still manages to unravel into a sentimental story full of important lessons anyone can and should take away from their time in the theater. Alongside the heartfelt story, there are still copious amounts of fun and humor that audiences have come to expect from the series.

“Given that the original ‘Kung Fu Panda’ came out in 2008, plenty of us who were the primary audience of that movie can now heavily relate to the themes of change and growth in the latest installment.”

The movie starts with Po in his prime, settled in as the Dragon Warrior and balancing protecting the Valley of Peace with being a supportive and helpful son in his father’s restaurant.

Of course, there wouldn’t be a movie without this normalcy giving way to adventure, and give way it does.

Our story truly starts when Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), the perpetually frustrated kung fu master who has been responsible for training Po since the very beginning, informs Po that the time has come for him to pass the torch onto a new Dragon Warrior and step into the role of Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.

Po reacts to this news in his usual going-against-the-grain way and basically says, “OK, but what if instead, everything stayed exactly the same?”

When it’s made clear that this isn’t really an option, Po decides to go on one last epic adventure.

He meets a quick and wry corsac fox named Zhen (Awkwafina) as she’s attempting to steal priceless artifacts. Together, the unlikely duo journeys across the realm to find and stop the villain of the story, The Chameleon (Viola Davis), a shapeshifting sorceress who plans to bring all of Po’s former foes back from the spirit realm in order to defeat him and take over the world.

Though the conflict between Po and The Chameleon feels underdeveloped and slightly rushed, one could argue that this isn’t the true conflict of this movie.

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Given that the original “Kung Fu Panda” came out in 2008, plenty of us who were the primary audience of that movie can now heavily relate to the themes of change and growth in the latest installment.

Po spends the entirety of the movie coming to terms with the fact that it’s time for him to move on and step into the next phase of his life — a conflict that felt so familiar, one has to wonder if the movie was made with those of us who grew up with the franchise in mind.

Sentimental themes and the all-too-realistic journey of self-discovery aside, there are still plenty of hilarious lines and moments to enjoy, and the characters truly do shine.

The Chameleon is still an intriguing and unique villain, which is unsurprising given that everything Davis touches turns to gold. Zhen is a complex and fun new character to watch throughout her journey, and Po and Shifu are the very same characters we all fell in love with 16 years ago.

The animation is beautifully done and is truly a credit to the craft, as one can’t help but fall in love with the wide, detailed city scenes and the eerily stunning transformations of The Chameleon.

At the end of the day, the film felt like a fitting ending to Po’s story and is sure to bring a smile to the face of anyone who watches it.

Reach Hannah Parcells at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @hannahparcells.

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About the Contributor
Hannah Parcells
Hannah Parcells, News Editor
Hannah Parcells is currently the news editor at The Collegian, a role that she loves dearly. Parcells uses she/her pronouns and began writing for The Collegian in fall 2023 as a reporter under the news, science, opinion and life and culture desks.  Parcells is currently pursuing two degrees: a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a concentration in global politics. Parcells has always been passionate about understanding and helping other people and hopes to use her education to try and leave the world a little better than she found it.  Raised in Castle Rock, Colorado, Parcells grew up with a love of learning, music and writing. She’s always working to learn more about the world through history and art and loves being introduced to new places, people and ideas.  On the off chance that she’s not buried in textbooks, research papers and policy analyses, Hannah can be found on a hike, watching movies or at any local bookstore or coffee shop, feeding her ongoing addictions to both caffeine and good books. Parcells is incredibly proud of the work she’s done at The Collegian so far and is excited to continue that work as an editor of the news desk.

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