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The Amazing Panda Adventure

movie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Amazing Panda Adventure

Starring: Stephen Lang, Ryan Slater
Director: Christopher Cain
Rated: PG
RunTime: 84 Minutes
Release Date: August 1995
Genres: Family, Kids


*Also starring: Wang Fei, Yi Ding, Huang Lei, Zhou Jiugou, Yao Erga, Isabella Hofmann, Joanne Dorian



Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

THE AMAZING PANDA ADVENTURE tells the story of an American boy who goes to China and helps save a young panda from poachers. As the story unfolds, our hero is a boy of about twelve named Ryan Tyler (Ryan Slater--yes, he is Christian's younger brother) who is giving a report on what his dad does for a living. It seems his parents are divorced, and he never sees his dad, Dr. Michael Tyler (Stephen Lang), because his dad stays in China trying to save pandas from extinction. As Ryan puts it in his report, "There are only 1,000 pandas left in the world. The problem is that people don't care."

Ryan gets tickets from his dad to come and visit him on his panda reserve in China, but he does not want to go. His mother appears briefly in the movie to comfort him with "Planes work both ways. If you really don't like it over there, you can come home."

When Ryan gets to China, his father is not there to met him at the airport as promised, and Ryan soon gets lost in a sea of signs all in Chinese characters. This hit home since years ago I got lost on a remote subway station in Japan, and all of the signs were in Japanese. It is quite discombobulating. Eventually, Ryan finds the panda reserve, but his dad does not care since he is about to leave to save a young panda. After at first declaring, "I'm not risking my life for some stupid old panda bear," Ryan tags along with his dad anyway.

The rest of the show is a series of adventures that will scare young children and bore most older ones. For a dissenting view, catch Jeffrey's opinion at the end. We have people being shot with the resulting bloody wounds, animals caught in vicious traps pulling so hard you think their legs will tear off, people falling off high cliffs, people appearing to drown, etc. The movie is simply one long chase scene filled with dangers. At least it does have the predictably happy ending.

The acting by Slater is pedestrian and that by Lang down right awful. Dr. Tyler's assistants are Ling (Yi Ding) and Chu (Wang Fei). Fei demonstrates no acting ability, but Ding gives the one compelling performance of the movie. She would be worth seeing again. Finally, the two bad guys look and act exactly like the idiotic Squat and Baboo from "The Power Rangers."

The script (Laurice Elehwany, Jeff Rothberg, and Alex Siskin) is exceedingly poor and feels like it was put together by a committee. When Ryan gets in trouble and needs to fix a transmitter, he reassures Yi with "Relax, I'm an American. My life revolves around electronics. I think I can handle it."

The star of the show and the only reason to see the movie at all are the pandas. The scene of the newly born, furless, baby panda is so precious. When he gets a little older, he is just as lovable. Every time he coos, you want to go hug him. I was once lucky enough to hold a koala in Australia, and watching Ryan hold a young panda, Ryan made me wish I was him.

The show does have one sweet scene not involving the pandas. Ryan and Ling get leeches on them which makes them tear their clothes off. When they realize what they have done, they both get extremely embarrassed. Ryan tries to get over the embarrassment by reassuring Ling that "I've seen naked ladies before. I have cable TV." It is a tastefully done scene where they are only shot from the neck up.

The directing was by Christopher Cain whose last movie was THE NEXT KARADE KID. Cain has no visible talent. Given the intrinsic beauty of China, I thought the cinematography (Jack Green) was surprisingly straightforward.

There is one good thing about THE AMAZING PANDA ADVENTURE other than the pandas - it starts with a fun cartoon geared to the adults in the audience. The cartoon is entitled CARTOONBLANCA and is a direct takeoff on CASABLANCA. The cartoon stars Bugs Bunny and all of his friends. This one, of course, has a happy ending since it is a cartoon after all.

THE AMAZING PANDA ADVENTURE runs too long at 1:30. It is rated PG for many violent scenes that will frighten kids under 5 or 6. If you like pandas, turn on the Discovery Channel instead of seeing this movie. My incredibly agreeable son Jeffrey, age 6 1/2, gives the movie the movie a thumbs up and a thumbs sideways. He liked the show, but the thumbs sideways was for the scene of the leaches and the blood when they pulled them off. I give the show * for the one sweet scene involving people and all of the panda shots.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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