Skadoosh. That’s the word that every audience member wanted to hear when they walked into Mike Mitchell’s “Kung Fu Panda 4.” A cacophony of college students, young children and parents entered the movie theater eager to get a taste of a nostalgic and adventurous story featuring their favorite anthropomorphic warrior. Unfortunately, this is something that the latest entry in the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise failed to provide.

“Kung Fu Panda 4” avoided what made the other films in the franchise so spectacular. The lovable cast of characters? Gone. The movie explained the absence of the Furious Five briefly, citing that Po’s iconic team was simply on a mission somewhere else. The formidable villain with a deep and intriguing backstory? Nope. The Chameleon is a flimsy and flat character, who just so happens to also undermine all of the legitimately inspired villains that came before her. If you’re expecting an epic conclusion to the “Kung Fu Panda” saga, this is not the place to look.

The film opens with the beloved “Dragon Warrior,” Po (Jack Black), being notified by his red-panda mentor Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), that it is time to select a successor to the mantle of the Dragon Warrior. With the departure of Grand Master Oogway in “Kung Fu Panda 3,” it’s Po’s time to rise to the position of “Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.” At the same time, a villain named the Chameleon (Viola Davis) masquerading as Po’s nemeses from past adventures wreaks havoc on the bustling Juniper City. Po, in a desperate attempt to savor his final moments as the Dragon Warrior, escapes his home in the Valley of Peace alongside a criminal fox (Awkwafina) who guides him throughout the criminal underworld in their ultimate task of defeating the Chameleon and saving the world. It’s a simple and enjoyable plot, but it isn’t without its questionable points.

It seemed like there was an onus on the writers to move the spotlight away from Po and onto the new addition, the criminal fox, Zhen. Why, all of the sudden, does Po have to leave his position as the Dragon Warrior? He was perfectly capable of continuing to battle and be the fluffy hero that he is. The absence of the Furious Five made absolutely no sense either. Why was Po the only warrior of the bunch to not join on the trip? According to creator Mitchell, this absence is for story related purposes — but it feels like more of a budgeting issue this time around. Despite this, the story and world were not actually the problem in this project. The real problem lies in the writing and shallow characterization of some of the movie’s most important figures.

The dialogue in the film is exactly what could be expected from a children’s movie. Most of the jokes were solid — especially the inclusion of murder-obsessed-bunny-children in the criminal undergrounds of Juniper City. Where the writing fell flat was in the character category.

Awkwafina’s character, Zhen, was an unwelcome replacement for Po’s old gang. She is characterized completely inconsistently and feels more like a shoehorned substitute than a lovable character in her own rite. The friendship developed between her and Po does not really marinate during the short 1 hour 31 minute runtime, and it feels completely off-base that the writers decided to introduce this character in what has been branded as the conclusion of the franchise. She was a shell of what a Furious Five and Dragon Warrior team-up could have been, and the movie sunk far too much time into selling this friendship when it should have been eliminated altogether. She might simply be a vehicle for ending the saga—a way to pass down the title of Dragon Warrior — but this is a lazy answer to that issue. Laziness runs rampant in the characters of “Kung Fu Panda 4.”

Po’s fathers, Mr. Ping (James Hong) and Li Shan (Bryan Cranston), are relegated to comedic relief — the whole time. It gets exhausting and boring and feels like a way to eat up runtime. This movie, a movie in a franchise that gave audiences three intricate and developed villains, gives us the Chameleon instead. The Chameleon, frankly, is a garbage villain with little to no explanation or development herself. The Chameleon also strips the past villains of their kung fu prowess by summoning them from the spirit realm and absorbing their chi.

By the end of the movie, the cast of villains are quite literally husks of the characters they used to be. Their interactions with Po are … friendly? It’s like the writers forgot the characters that they were writing dialogue for. It’s understandable that this is a kids movie and not everything can be realistic or have immense depth. This, however, is a very different mistake. It’s a lack of care for the source material, for those who enjoyed the story that they already built and for the legacy that the series leaves behind. There is even more to be said about Po and Shifu’s diminished role in the movie, but picking apart every little detail that the writers fumbled in this script would take a novel. More briefly, the writers of “Kung Fu Panda 4” completely desecrated a lore that they themselves worked hard to build.

Other than all that, the voice acting was fine. Visually, it was fine. The action was undoubtedly awesome, but it was sparse. There was nothing special about this entry. It was wildly disappointing.

“Kung Fu Panda 4” was in no means a ‘skadoosh’ kind of movie. It was a one-and-a-half-hour cash grab with nothing to say — a desperate end to a beloved franchise.

Rating: 2/5