The Amazing Panda Adventure
1995 Directed by Christopher Cain. Starring Stephen Lang, Yi Ding, Ryan Slater, Wang Fei, Zhou Jian Zhong.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 1, 1995
How about The Boring Panda Adventure? Or maybe The Formulaic Disney Ripoff? Either one is a more apt title for this tired retread of Uncle Walt's past nature-in-jeopardy vehicles. When 10-year-old Ryan Tyler (Slater) is invited by his conservationist (and divorced) father to rural China for the summer, he finds himself caught up in a fight to save an orphaned panda cub from clumsy poachers while struggling to renew the bonds of love between himself and his semi-estranged dad. Ouch, that hurts. This numbingly predictable story is helped not one whit by the lackadaisical direction of Christopher Cain (The Next Karate Kid), the yawningly uninspired script by screenwriter Jeff Rothberg, and the tedious camerawork by Jack Green (one can only take so many magnificent shots of the Chinese countryside before they cease to be so magnificent). As Ryan's gruff, non-parental father Michael, Stephen Lang seems caught in a bad TV movie of the week, all stern looks and grizzled platitudes. As Ryan, Slater does his part well enough, but mediocrity seems to be the rule of thumb here, with only the real-life panda cub inspiring any audience sympathy (the animatronic pandas are much too gawky to be very oooh-inspiring). Compared to the recent sleeper hit Babe, the porcine star and story of which elicited far better emotional and dramatic responses from both adults and kids, this is one adventure that is anything but amazing. Oh, here's one: The Insufferably Tedious Panda Cinema-Scam. A bit lengthy, perhaps, but much more accurate.