Welcome to a Different Review
We like to have fun here, whether that is reviewing a fantastically fun flick or an amazing anime series. This time we will be doing neither of those things…or both depending on how you look at it. Because today’s post is going to be a mock attempt at script coverage. I found this script on Simply Scripts, a site where writers share all sort of scripts and boy howdy did, I read a doozy that I just got to talk about it. In excruciating detail.
I figured the best way to tackle reviewing a script would be to do it in the form of script coverage. Script coverage is usually a task delegated to interns or lower level employees of a production studio that will read scripts and provide enough of an understanding so that a higher up doesn’t have to read the script to understand why this is something worth pursuing or have enough of an understanding to explain to an agent why it isn’t. Studios tend to reject 90% of scripts they come across, you can place your bets know whether you think I am recommending today’s script: Pandamonium.
Logline: Two kids stumble upon a magic panda who transforms into a teenage boy giving them a day they’ll never forget.
While I will be framing it in the format of film coverage, I will still have interspersed analysis and research to give you a complete picture as well as give my in depth opinions of some of the plot points to breakup my synopsis. Speaking of which let’s begin now with a pretty important question before we start.
Who is Richard L. Sartore?
It is a common practice of criticism to first understand the author of a piece to better understand the work itself. Pandamonium is a rather bizarre piece, and our author is also that…bizarre.
When I initially pictured the author of Pandamonium I imagined someone old and out of touch who has probably never seen an animated movie in theaters and has no idea what anime is. The kind of out of touch that constantly posts their political beliefs constantly on Twitter. Let’s check that Twitter really quick: let’s see 4 followers, 36 tweets last tweet is calling Trump a “Pumpkin Head with seeds as a brain”. I don’t believe in shaming someone for amount of Twitter followers or their social media presence because I would come across as both pompous and a hypocrite. There’s always a bigger fish, I have posted my fair share of cringe, and Twitter is such a forsaken wasteland I don’t necessarily see “large Twitter following” as much of something to be proud of. I only bring this up because remind you we are talking about a family animated film and it helps illustrate the preconceived notion that Sartore might not have the best understanding of his target demographic. However, when exploring these authors, I always find more beyond my preconception of them.
Sartore is far from a novice, and actually has a full library of works that you could be reading right now. I guarantee with his diverse range of subject matter, I’m sure at least one of them will catch your eyes.
Works by Sartore include:
- Joseph Campbell on Myth & Mythology (1993)
- Humans Eating Humans: The Dark Shadow of Cannibalism (1994)
- Working to Become an Adult: Diverse Practice, Initiations & Rites (1996)
- Body Shaping: Trends, Fashions and Rebellions (1998)
- Disabled and Blue? Getting Back into Life! (1999)
- Seasons of Change: Baseball in America (1999)
- Media Responsibility (2000)
- When Your Mate is No Longer Significant! (2001)
- Sol’s Last Tape (2008)
What do all of these have in common? No seriously I am asking what…. why…. and how were these all written by the same individual. I mean for someone to be able to provide expert analysis from cannibals to baseball to feelings of inadequacy plaguing your marriage you would have to be some sort of genius. Full disclosure, I might still have half a century worth of life experience before I catch up to Mr. Sartore and I feel confident that I will never reach his level of intelligence. That is not a joke either, Sartore has a BA and count them 3 Master’s Degree.
Sartore’s passion for writing is actually commendable, especially when you factor in his predicament. As I learned from the back cover of Disabled and Blue? and confirmed with an interview with Filmmakers.com that Sartore has ALS and is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down. Still he uses a special program to help type out his scripts that he will work on for roughly 8 hours a day. It’s that dedication that despite Pandamonium and probably a lot of Sartore’s writing being rather odd I think they’re worth acknowledging and giving a chance.
The Heist of the Century
synopsis: In need of quick cash, CLARA and NICK pull a heist to kidnap a prize-winner Husky puppy. A mix-up occurs and the two accidentally steal an exotic panda instead. While the two crooks are reworking their scheme, their niece and nephew MOLLY and ZACK come to visit. Molly and Zack notice the panda and Clara and Nick allow them to take care of it as long as they keep it a secret.
The story introduces us to Nick and Clara and boy are they up to some antics. They are this bickering couple with some conniving ideas, it honestly reminds me a bit of Jesse and James from Pokémon’s Team Rocket or even a bit of Harry and Marv from Home Alone. You might be like me and assume that this duo committing such a bizarre heist is setting up our antagonists. Nope.
I thought this was heading down the route of this exotic animal actually being something these two would want and they have to retrieve him from the protagonists…instead Nick and Clara have just about no relevance to what is going on in the plot. They are pretty much just here to be a completely contrived way to set the ball in motion, and then they periodically reemerge in a sort of running gag/b-plot where the b-plot is…them doing nothing?
But I mean I have to excuse their inclusion because their dialogue is just Oscar worthy. So, imagine you risked everything to steal a prize-winning dog from plane cargo and you open the cage and there’s one of the most recognizable animals in the world…of course your convo would go something like:
NICK: Yeah, so what the hell is it?
CLARA: A panda.
NICK: How’s that?
CLARA: The Chinese bear.
NICK: Where’s the dog?
CLARA: I ALREADY SAID IT WAS PITCH BLACK.
NICK: Christ. A bear. Not a dog. How could you…? We have a bear hostage?
CLARA: A mistake!
I want to give this dialogue some credit, it’s a frantic situation so I believe the very fragmented dialogue is trying to amplify that…but also what! I mean sentences can be longer than three words. I also just like, “How’s that?” I want to say it’s just a typo but so much of the conversation is disjointed maybe it is just supposed to be how. When I first read this I just assumed that the writer’s first language wasn’t English, honestly if I clean it up it’s not too bad of an interaction… it just needs each piece to flow into each other. With some quick fixes:
Nick (puzzled): What the hell is that?
Clara: a panda.
Nick: How’d did that get there?
Clara: It says it’s from China.
Nick (agitated): That’s not what I meant. Where’s the dog?
Clara: It was pitch black. I must have grabbed the wrong cage.
Nick: Jesus Christ! A Bear? Not a dog. How could you? What are we supposed to do with a, a bear hostage!
Clara: I made a mistake!
It’s not a bad scene as it does build up from being perplexed to being enraged but when the dialogue doesn’t carry the momentum it just comes across as chopped together.
This is When Things Start to Escalate…
Synopsis: The kids ponder the perfect name for their fluffy friend and end up naming him Bamboo. The kids lacking a way to feed the Panda, attempt to give him dog food and lettuce. To their surprise, Bamboo voices his displeasure. Bamboo has the ability to talk and voices his irritation with his silly name and lack of cheese and crackers. Speaking isn’t the only surprise about Bamboo, as he wishes for some bamboo and makes the plant appear at his fingertips. Bamboo explains that some rare pandas get a wish power, but that power isn’t permanent and can suddenly disappear
So, this certainly is quite the overload on unexpected turns. We meet Molly and Zack Teash a last name that I thought sounded stupid until I saw what Elon Musk named his kid and now, I take it back. So, I’ll come right out and say it, these kid’s have no discernible personality and they’re just kind of there. Zack’s personality is boy and Molly is girl who has one thing interesting about her, but I am saving that for later. They are pretty much the equivalent of those two yellow children from Kirby Right Back at Ya! Because the main character needs someone to be around and boy and girl it is.
So we also get to learn a lot about… Bamboo (which I thought was a dumb name but the other names they came up with was snowball, huggy, and dumpy…so). See at least this script delivers on its insanity because usually when you ask for a panda to be able to: talk, grant wishes, and eat copious amounts of cheese and crackers…. You usually only get one of those things. We got all three and honestly, yeah it’s fun now but trust me we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg, and this is a titanic level collision.
I do have to mention that this script just has a ton of red herrings in it, and everyone knows if there’s a good way to write a children’s movie plot it’s to make it as sporadic and unpredictable as possible. I say this because Nick and Clara do not know what to do with this panda, so they call up a Joe Exotic-ish guy named Sy Betts (sure). This is where I thought surely this is setting up our antagonist, this exotic animal collector guy is going to want to swindle them or sell this panda on the black market. I did not expect him to immediately snitch on them by picking up the phone and requesting to speak with the FBI (though if I learned anything from Tiger King it’s that animal collectors are wild and unpredictable people). I didn’t include Betts in my summary because his existent is just a weird tangent and won’t be of any importance later on. I mean the FBI was already looking for the panda so if anything, this is the reason why the FBI is able to track them down. No, the FBI ain’t the antagonists either and are not especially important… best to just stop guessing.
to be continued in part 2…
Character Avatars were made using picrew, if you’d like to follow the artist or make your own character: