Kung Fu Panda 4

Posted on March 7, 2024 at 6:33 am

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for martial arts action/mild violence, scary images and some mild rude humor
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Extended action-style peril and martial arts fight scenes
Diversity Issues: None

Skidoosh! Jack Black returns as Po in the fourth chapter of the saga about the big-hearted panda who has become a kung fu master with the title of Dragon Warrior, and earned the gratitude of his community and the respect of his colleagues, the Furious Five. If you don’t know who they are, don’t worry; they are briefly seen and not heard (very expensive voice talent) in this film.

But there’s plenty of top-level voice talent anyway, with Dustin Hoffman returning as the red panda Master Shifu, Viola Davis as The Chameleon, Black’s “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” co-star Awkwafina as a fox named Zhen. Also returning are Po’s two dads, his adoptive father, the excitable Mr. Ping (James Hong) and the cuddly and fearful Li (Bryan Cranston), now close friends.

A brief prologue shows the return of the first villain Po defeated, Tai Lung (Ian McShane), apparently escaped from the spirit world determined “to take what is mine, which is everything that is yours.”

Po is happy as the movie begins. He is respected and beloved in his community and welcomes customers to Mr. Ping’s expanded restaurant. He signs autographs and poses for pictures (created with a paintbrush). He has accepted the staff of wisdom from Master Shifu without really thinking about what it means — that it is time for him to ascend to the next level, “passing on wisdom and inspiring hope,” and select a successor Dragon Warrior. Po is proud of achieving that title and reluctant to let it go. When he meditates on a new Dragon Warrior, his mind quickly moves from “inner peace” to “dinner, please.”

Tai Lung has not returned. That was an even more dangerous villain, The Chameleon, a shapeshifter with powerful magic. Po meets Zhen, a thief and a liar who grew up on the streets of Juniper City. She promises to bring him to The Chameleon. But can she be trusted?

This fourth chapter meets or exceeds the vibrance and heart of the first three films. The animation is superb, with outstandingly imagined settings, camera angles, styles, and action scenes. The gentle exploration of the conflicting feelings about growing up is sensitive and insightful. Awkwafina is, as always, funny and endearing in her portrayal of a character who is seeing what it means to be trustworthy and kind for the first time. The Chameleon, marvelously designed, with voice by Davis, is an excellent villain, imperious, steely, and ruthless. And there are a number of funny supporting characters, including Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan as the leader of the underground lair of thieves, and a trio of deceptively cute but secretly bloodthirsty little creatures. The balance between action and humor is just right, with a very funny bulls in a china shop moment and a precariously balanced tavern. And Po is, as always, an appealing hero, always on the side of helping others but still with more to learn.

Parents should know that this film includes extended action- and cartoon-style scenes of martial arts peril and violence, some schoolyard language (“screwed up,” etc.), and references to orphanhood and neglect. Some families may be sensitive to the portrayal of an adopted character who is equally devoted to his biological and adoptive father.

Family discussion:

If you like this, try: the other “Kung Fu Panda” movies and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” with Black and Awkwafina

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Everything Everywhere All at Once

Posted on March 31, 2022 at 10:00 am

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some violence, sexual material and language
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Vaping marijuana
Violence/ Scariness: Extended fantasy-style action and peril, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: April 1, 2022
Date Released to DVD: July 4, 2022

Copyright A24 2022
They aren’t kidding about the “Everything” in the title. “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a wildly imaginative and just plain wild splintered story of metaverses, googly eyes, a weaponized fanny pack, dirty laundry, a big bagel, telepathic rocks, divorce papers, Benihana, a “Ratatouille” remix, the IRS, a dress with doll heads on the sleeves, and, as promised, it is all at once.

Michelle Yeoh finally has a role fully worthy of her as Evelyn, who in this universe is anxious, disappointed, and exhausted. She and her nebbish of a husband, Waymond (former child star Ke Huy Quan of “The Goonies” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”) live above their business, a run-down laundromat. Her father, Gong (James Hong of “Blade Runner”), is visiting and she is planning a party. She worries about pleasing him. She thinks her daughter, Joy (Stephanie Hsu) is directionless. She introduces Joy’s girlfriend to Gong as her friend because she does not want him to know Joy is gay. The laundromat is being audited by a grim IRS bureaucrat named Diedre (an un-glammed Jamie Leigh Curtis, having a blast).

In the midst of Diedre’s questions about their receipts, a Waymond from another universe arrives to tell Evelyn that all of the multiverses are under attack by a villain named Jobu Tupaki and only she, of the thousands of Evelyns throughout the multiverses, can save the day. To do that, she will need to access the memories and skills of her Evelyn counterparts.

This leads to a dazzlingly kaleidoscopic adventure that is genuinely thrilling and often hilarious, sensational martial arts fights in an always-astounding array of settings, with a roller coaster of surprising twists and turns that hold up on repeated viewings. One very funny running joke is the increasingly bizarre and often gross triggers for switching to another universe. The production design is sensational, as observant and witty in the ordinary locations (it is the IRS office of nightmares) and the fantasies. Same with the costumes, especially those worn by Jobu Tupaki. All of it comes with cheeky brio and a surprising amount of heart. Ke Huy Quan is a marvel, both in the action scenes and in his seamless shifts between the different Raymonds. He is always present, committed, and completely clear about which version he is. Yeoh shows us all the Evelyns, separate and integrated, and it is a joy to see her go from drab and bedraggled to knowing and open-hearted. She begins the day saying she cannot hold one more thought in her head. She ends with the thoughts of countless Evelyns. I don’t want to give anything away about Jobu Tupaki, except to say the performance has great wit and charm.

The movie opens by taking us literally through the looking glass into a world of layers, miscommunication, and doubling even before we get to the prismatic multiverse. It ends with a sense of wholeness that makes us feel a little closer to, well, everything.

Parents should know that this movie includes very strong language and constant peril and action-style violence with many characters injured and killed.

Family discussion: What would your multiverse personas be? What unpredictable action would you take to access them? What rejections and disappointments have led you to this moment?

If you like this, try: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and other Michelle Yeoh movies

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