This is a review of the script Pandamonium and a document of my descent into madness trying to rationalize it. It is heavily encouraged you start with part 1. Thank you.
Synopsis: Bamboo fears Clara and Nick will get rid of him, so he erases their memories before they can hand him off to an exotic animal collector. Molly asks Bamboo if he wants to just wish himself back to the zoo, but he says he wants to mull the decision over. Molly and Zack shift their focus over to planning a visit to their ill mother in the hospital. The kids tell Bamboo that he isn’t allowed to come in fear he will be spotted or concern their mom. Bamboo has the ingenious idea to disguise himself as a teenage boy named Billy. They all decide to go check out the zoo, and gawk at plenty of animals. Billy briefly expresses his perspective on zoos how he feels it is the humans who are really “behind the bars”. After the zoo the trio head over to the morgue and some hi-jinks ensue when Billy revives a dead cadaver.
You really love how I end on a riveting note and am going to try to ignore that why I go over some other headscratchers. So, Nick and Clara are effectively erased from the plot as they have no memory of playing any role in kidnapping the panda. This feels like something that is preemptively trying to address that CinemaSins type of nitpick criticism. If the panda could wish for anything then could he not just wish to kill the plot at the very beginning. Yes, but I mean most rational people can understand that a character won’t always have the most calculated of approaches, and this just seems like a lot of hoops to jump through. Is anyone going to say their willing suspension of disbelief was shattered by the panda just escaping the cage and the kid’s find him roaming the neighborhood? I sure know that I can believe a Panda can talk and grant wishes but the second you say he got loose you lose me.
I don’t know, maybe Sartore just liked the bickering of Nick and Clara and just thought they added a good dose of comedy to the film. Yet, I don’t know a lot of the plot operates like this because the character again just say something that roughly translates to “hey, if you have magic wish power and can do anything, why don’t cha just wish yourself back into a zoo my guy”. It makes it really apparent that the characters don’t have a lot of conviction behind what they want to do. It is getting to the point that I don’t really understand a lot about what’s going on in the script anymore. Like I thought Nick and Clara where supposed to be like middle-aged adults, but then Molly says that they are at bingo…. BINGO!?!? Maybe bingo is hipper and cooler than I’m giving it. Maybe at the retirement home the ladies will love my style, be at my table getting’ wild because I’m fly like a G6…please I just need a G6 and then I get a bingo and I can tell Myrtle to shove it!
Or you know… it’s not.
Also, maybe we should address the elephant or panda in the room (booooo!). The messaging of this script is…pro-zoo? To support animals in captivity is…unconventional to say the least. Now I do not want to be too dismissive because this can actually be an interesting new take that could explain the benefits of animal captivity. While the malpractices of global zoos and questionable living conditions have been common to loft at these facilities, when run right I don’t believe they are completely inhumane and can provide efforts to curtail extinction through providing food and medicine to in need creatures. Does this tale make a compelling argument to support the work of zoos…no. If anything it does the opposite because zoo keepers feed the animals cheese and crackers and I don’t think that’s part of a panda’s natural diet to say the least.
I will provide an example that better exemplifies this later but having your quippy cute animal as your morality mouthpiece…probably not your best option. Honestly, I found Bamboo more annoying than humorous and a lot of that stemmed from him being almost a transparent propaganda propagator who uses his authority as an animal to speak for the animals in a way that it comes from a character that is naïve, ignorant, and kind of obtuse.
Yet the statement that Bamboo makes, claiming that American zoos are 4-star establishments opens up a whole can of worms. I want to know what a 5-star zoo looks like, I bet it has all the cheese and crackers a magic talking panda can dream of.
Side Note – Maybe My Favorite Part:
So, I mentioned earlier that Molly Teash has one defining character trait and can you guess what it is? Does she want to learn how to speak Cantonese? Is she deathly afraid of public speaking? Maybe she collects potato chips shaped like US presidents? No…um I guess we have to rip this band-aid off. Molly wants to fuck the panda.
I can’t make this up! Molly is a S.I.M.P. a sweetie idolizing magic pandas. I know you don’t believe me but, it’s not even subtle this is the scene when Bamboo transforms into Billy, his human form.
Bamboo closes his eyes, mutters to himself, and transforms into a teenage boy. The teenage boy is tall, blond, has a scratched earring in his left ear, and spiked hair.
BAMBOO (BILLY): How’s that?
MOLLY: You’re hot!
BAMBOO (BILLY): Hot?
Bamboo feels his arms. Zack and Molly are fascinated.
ZACK: Man, a human!
You’re hot! I know that at this point it seems innocent enough, I’m overreacting to a gag. This is just the beginning of the romance plot. Also, kickin’…just proof that this script came out 2 decades too late. Enough of the weird bestiality subplot let’s have some fun…let’s visit the morgue.
Before I talk about that, I have to just quickly mention that Nick and Clara are paid a visit by 2 FBI agents: agent Grape and agent Hunt. That is all.
Finally, we’re talking about the morgue scene and I am at a loss in discerning exactly why this is here. So, Billy forces these kids who are obviously uncomfortable with an unsolicited visit to the morgue which I have to agree and say this is kind of a Nintendon’t. If a panda forcing you to stare at a cadaver doesn’t sound like a fun time to you, no worries… he’ll reanimate the corpse and bring it back to life. In my naïve head, I saw this playing out like that Zombie from Hocus Pocus or like a Beetlejuice sort of zany dive into that kooky spooky type amusement. No…instead it kind of plays out like more like the Case of M. Valdemar.
The cadaver seems very confused and only really gives a brief recount of how his cow kicked him in his head and that’s how he died. Nothing says child-friendly like death by blunt-force trauma. Then Billy proceeds to threaten the deceased individual… I don’t know a better interpretation of what Billy means when asked where the man’s wife is he states, “Patience. She’ll join you”. Then they just put him back to sleep and this scene ends with the most logically conclusion, “can you teach me how to use the bathroom”.
So that is the Plot?
Synopsis: When the kids make it up to see their mother, Billy refuses to join them claiming he’ll always be a panda but uses his wish powers to make their visit pleasant for the mom filling the room with her favorite things. The next day Billy decides to join Molly at school. In science class the students discuss the ethics of animal experimentation. Billy takes center stage as he advocates against the ignorance and harms of animal experimentation while advocating for endangered species being placed in zoos due to limited food sources, pouching, and low birth rates. Billy even confesses his profound knowledge is because he is in fact a panda, but Mrs. Taylor dismisses it as an odd sense of humor.
So, as you have joined me in investing way too much time into this you’ve maybe wondered what is the overarching narrative to this thing. If it isn’t some antagonist driven plot about stealing Bamboo to make a fortune, or Molly’s furry romance what ties this all together?
The plot is that Billy will never truly identify as a human because he was born a panda and will always have to be true to himself. I’m sorry for spoilers but this conflict is resolved by…returning Billy to the zoo. WHAT!
That’s the problem with Pandamonium, not that is utterly ridiculous or that I find most of the characters uninteresting… it’s fundamentally broken. It takes the hero’s journey and forgets a few steps…like all of them.
At the start the panda is pro-zoo and by the end of is pro-zoo. The panda wants to return to zoo and besides for filler/padded conflict there is no obstacle impeding that journey. Panda believes he can’t be human because his true form is a panda and this conviction is never challenged, changed, or heavily imposed on. Can you have a story that is absent of a distinct character arc, it’s rare but you can. Take Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for example. Ferris Bueller doesn’t learn to be more compassionate or suffer the consequences of his actions because the film is less about character and more about ideas. It’s a fun tale that represents the unique opportunity to seize the day during our youth and inspire spontaneity. A Series of Unfortunate Events is another example where it is less about how the characters grow or evolve from these experiences but demonstrate the world as a dowry place full of rotten people and constant misfortune. Both these examples in my eyes are perfectly well done because they demonstrate their themes and ideas…and they’re fun.
Pandamonium is just like these except, it’s not as fun, and it’s not as good at delivering its messages. I already talked about how a comic relief character as your moral compass is rather odd, but it is also presented in a preachy and shallow way. The depths of the commentary really go as far as “get a load of this society”. It is also delivered in very contrived situations. Examples such as Billy epic-ally owning the teacher during a class discussion on animal testing and weird comments such as from the perspective of a caged animal it is the humans that are behind the bars. I learned nothing, I related to nothing, I felt nothing, and I don’t think it was just a fun adventure to warrant a pleasurable empty calorie experience. It just surmounts to truly little.
The Ship Don’t Quit?
Synopsis: Molly asks Billy if he likes being a panda, and when he confirms that he does Molly requests he transforms her into a panda. Billy reluctantly goes along with it, and Molly becomes a panda before being brought back to human form. A police officer asks Molly a few questions about Billy but aren’t able to make much progress into their investigation. The kids then head out to the mall where Billy remarks how strange lingerie stores, stuffed animals, and a wildlife arcade shooter are. The two end the day discussing whether Billy wants to go back to the zoo. When Molly expresses, she wishes she could have her mom back, Billy uses his magic to cure her of her illness
I swear you people think I’m making this up…I’m not. Earlier we have a scene and Molly blushes at the Billy. Then she asks to be transformed into a panda and I don’t like that. When you know about the romance plot lines like “I DESPERATELY WANT TO BE WITH YOU AS BILLY. BUT THE FACT IS I’M STILL A PANDA” (It’s all caps in the script. I’m not emphasizing) and “Molly persists by tugging on Billy’s earring” read a little differently). I still like “Jeepers, I’m all furry” from Rock a Doodle as the ultimate transformation reaction, but Molly’s declaration of “Holy swamp dog. I’m a panda” is a close second.
When that’s over we find out that Billy is kind of racist towards mice…and that’s not weird enough to discuss at this point so we’re just going to move along like that was a normal thing to say.
Molly gets a visit from two police officers…. officer Carter…and officer Unders. I feel like the only possible explanation why this character is officer Unders is for the sole purpose of a quick “Unders, where?” gag but that is giving too much credit because that doesn’t happen in this script. Again, I keep thinking this investigation is going to go somewhere. But they literally ask 2 questions and just immediately leave. WHY IS THIS HERE? Having scenes of erratic behavior aren’t fun if every scene is followed up by an explanation of why there’s no consequences for it. It’s boring, it’s bad…don’t do that. In a way it’s similar to E.T. but the investigation to find E.T. is successful so it’s relevant to the plot…this is useless filler and it’s not funny, not entertaining, and not even adding much of anything except for pages to the script.
Also move over Anthony Fantano, I get my music reviews from Bamboo “Billy” the Panda.
BILLY: What’s the horrible noise?
ZACK: You mean the music?
BILLY: No. I mean the noise.
ZACK: Rap. Rap music.
BILLY: Noise. Bad noise!
ZACK: Gotta get with it!
BILLY: I’d rather be without it.
To be fair that is word for word my review of Lil’ Uzi Vert’s Sasuke.
To Be Continued in Part 3…
Character art was made in Picrew make your own or follow the artist if you’d like: