FILM REVIEWS Kung Fu Panda 4, Mothers’ Instinct and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire

A big Easter weekend for film fans includes a murder mystery for adults, a monster mash-up for teens and the return of a favourite animation character for youngsters.

Kung Fu Panda 4 will be loved by families at Westside’s plush 12-screen picture houses – Odeon Luxe Broadway Plaza and Cineworld Broad Street.

Westside has a host of places for families to eat out afterwards at any time of the day or night and it’s a great place for creature features, too. 

LEGOLAND Discovery Centre has a giant, outdoor Lego giraffe which keeps its beady eye on the sharks inside the nearby National SEA LIFE Centre in Brindleyplace.

KUNG FU PANDA 4 (PG, 94 mins). Jack Black returns for a third sequel as Po the courageous, martial arts-loving Dragon Warrior. But is he qualified to become the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace?

The evil, shape-shifting sorceress Chameleon (Viola Davis) wants the Staff of Wisdom to undo his previous work, so Po teams up with Zhen (Awkwafina), a thieving fox adding an odd-couple dimension to his battling spirit.

There’s even a well-timed nasal twist on the time-honoured fart gag, too.

Verdict: **** The concept of having a ‘slacker’ Panda with physical limitations to overcome is still a winner even without the introduction of the whip-smart Chameleon.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is bright, colourful and energetic with quick-fire script to match. Voice artists again include Dustin Hoffman and Ian McShane, with Hans Zimmer given another co-credit for the score.

The series will never match the ‘surprised it’s so good and funny’ reaction to the first movie but parents and children alike will enjoy Kung Fu Panda 4.

Released here on July 4, 2008, the original, Oscar-nominated Kung Fu Panda was a global hoot. 

Sequels followed in 2011 and 2016 but eight-year-olds who enjoyed the first story might now be 24 themselves. Similarly, you would have to be 16 to remember seeing the last movie as an eight-year-old. 

Ker-ching! Given that hardly anyone under the age of 12 will even remember Kung Fu Panda 3 in cinemas, version four will have a guaranteed fresh audience. 

They won’t care that director Mike Mitchell is a safe pair of hands having already recycled sequels in the Shrek, Spongebob and Lego Movie franchises. Enjoy!

MOTHERS’ INSTINCT (15, 94 mins). Based on the 2018 French-language movie interpretation of a 2012 novel and co-produced by stars Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, the lives of two neighbouring mothers in the Kennedy era are increasingly undermined by tragedy.

The verdict: *** If this was a Hitchcock-lite thriller about fathers in the 1990s it might have starred Richard Gere, so the twist is that two female Oscar winners take centre stage. Four Hands That Rock The Cradle, if you will.

Hollywood needs to make more real-world dark thrillers and Hathaway and Chastain are class acts despite the story about highly-strung smokers trying to have it all being undone by the far-fetched plot.

The adult themes are so heavy duty that, even in this fictional world, the child actors playing the sons seem to be far too young to be dealing with this kind of trauma. Victory to the score’s co-composers instead.

GODZILLA x KONG: THE NEW EMPIRE (12A, 115 mins). Following Godzilla vs Kong (2021) in an already bloated ‘Monsterverse’ series, horror director Adam Wingard returns with Hollywood’s two biggest creature stars facing a threat from ‘Hollow Earth’.

Verdict: *** Though filmed for IMAX (Cineworld) and with Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens starring, even the more impressive action sequences here veer too close to computer game territory for the film to be as valid as the recent Oscar-winning effects in the Japanese World War Two reflection, Godzilla Minus One. 

But if you simply want relentless fantasy and brain-disengaging, escapist mayhem on the big screen after the more cerebral Dune 2, you’ve got it as some of the world’s favourite tourist destinations are smashed to pieces.

Warning… The New Empire features animal bodies ripped in half as well as full-blooded attacks by apes using everything from axes, blades, rocks and even an artificial fist just to attack each other.

Despite feeling like it could have been called ‘Reservoir Apes’, the overall tone is somehow light enough – for the BBFC censors at least – to keep this at 12A. But for any minors taken to see the IMAX version especially, the experience would be seriously violent, noisy and intense and the script no more intelligible.

Picture credits: Godzilla x Kong, Warner Bros; Kung Fu Panda 4, Universal; Mothers’ Instinct, StudioCanal; Giant Lego giraffe, Graham Young.

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