It’s hard to view Kung Fu Panda 4 as anything other than an unnecessary addition to the already successful trilogy. Jack Black returns as the “Dragon Warrior” in this flashy and shallow fourth installment. With much of the original voice cast gone, co-directors Mike Mitchell and Stephanie Stine along the writing staff, Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger, and Darren Lemke, took this film in a different direction. Far away from the Valley of Peace await new dangers, new villains, and new adventures. Although Kung Fu Panda 4 may hold the attention of its target audience, older fans of the franchise will likely be disappointed.

Po (Jack Black) is the Dragon Warrior, respected and adored by people all over the world. When he is told by his master that it is time to hang it up and begin to train a successor, Po struggles to come to terms with this new direction and fails to name a mentee after the extravagant interview event. It is during a distracted bout of meditation when Po notices an intruder, Zhen (Awkwafina), and confronts her in the Hall of Heroes. Zhen is a professional thief and lures Po into a fight with her sights set on one thing: the Staff of Wisdom. Po foils her attempt but learns about a new threat to the realm: a devious supervillain named The Chameleon (Viola Davis). Now Po and Zhen must team up to stop The Chameleon before she takes over the world.

The plot here feels forced and lacks any sort of depth. Much of the story could have been told in the span of 30 minutes, but the material is painstakingly stretched into a 94-minute feature. Kung Fu Panda 4 is broken up scene to scene by flashy fight sequences and slow-motion spin kicks, a staple of the series and probably the only visually appealing sequences throughout the film. There is enough excitement to keep much of the younger audience engaged, and the simple story will allow them to follow right along.

The voice work here is done very well, highlighted by Davis’s performance as The Chameleon. Her menacing but calm demeanor is perfect for the character, and she really stands out amongst an already solid cast. A newcomer to the series, Awkwafina, does very well in her role and shows some impressive growth as an actress. Jack Black nails his performance, giving the impression that he could do voice work for Po in his sleep.

Kung Fu Panda 4 is mostly a boring, but well-acted, romp through the world of Po and his friends. The lack of series staples stands out (there is even a clever explanation for each absence) but the film does well in introducing new characters. Longtime fans may leave disappointed, but this will at least provide the little ones with an afternoon of fun at the movies.