It has been sixteen years since the release of the first Kung Fu Panda movie. Most of you might not have been born then, but I have grown up watching the lovely Panda doing Kung Fu and defeating the mightiest of the enemies and was excited for their fourth movie. The latest instalment is another fun-filled ‘Skadoosh’, where Po gets a sidekick to ensure no one gets bored.

Directed by Mike Mitchell, famous for SpongeBob movies and The Lego Movie 2, the fourth instalment of Kung Fu Panda comes after eight years. In the latest outing, Po is a bit mature and caring, and seen using proverbs, something unlike the giant panda we know.

Voiced by the ever-energetic Jack Black, Po is asked to move on by Master Shifu, in pure Dustin Hoffman style, who voices the latter. However, the search for ‘inner peace’ soon becomes dinner peas and dinner please, (rhyming words). Po even ends up selecting himself as the next Dragon Warrior, despite having options at hand.

With Master Shifu and both Li Shan, Po’s adoptive and biological fathers (voiced by James Hong and Bryan Cranston, respectively) reprising their roles, many felt the absence of the furious five throughout the 94-minute movie. However, there is a relief, filled by a wanted thief (my two cents at rhyming). A fox named Zhen is there to match Po’s antics, besides helping him find the villain, a shape-shifting, power-absorbing The Chameleon.

We all loved Jack Black in the Jumanji series, School of Rock, Ice Age and lately as Bowser in Super Mario Bros., but the young Awkwafina as Zhen matches the old man perfectly. With this flick, she has joined the league of actresses who are part of successful franchises. She was in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Jumanji: The Next Level, while also doing voice-overs in animated films like The Angry Birds Movie 2 (2019), Raya and the Last Dragon (2021), The Bad Guys (2022), The Little Mermaid and Migration.

Just like they did in the Jumanji sequel, Jack Black and Awkwafina complement each other here as voice actors too. She even manages to outshine the Academy-Award-winner Viola Davis, who provides the vocals for the antagonist; the tiny lizard with big plans. As The Chameleon, she is impressive as always and adds colour to an already vibrant cast.

Don’t miss out on the chance to join your favourite Panda for another adventure; he is waiting for you in a cinema, near you!

Published in Dawn, Young World, April 20th, 2024

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