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.
A Wild Plot Appears!
Synopsis: However, when Molly calls her mom it appears as though the wish did not work. Billy fears that he’ll always be a human now. Him and the kids go to a Chinese restaurant to eat shoots to lament their sorrows. However, when Billy reads his fortune cookie it reads to “come to the top floor. Find Mr. Fing”. With nothing to lose, they head upstairs and uncover a mystical elder who knows who they are and about Billy’s former panda body. Mr. Fing advises them that in order to regain his power he must “save the life of another animal”. Molly discovers that Mr. Fing was once a panda himself and now dedicates himself to assisting former wish pandas regain their ability.
Woah, we’re halfway there and I know my audience retention is living on a prayer. Finally, we get some tension as right when we figure out, we can just use magic to solve “all” of our problems…it’s doesn’t work no more. Convenient. My mom isn’t going to be healed with magic…that’s kind of a bummer. Oh well, time to wallow in our sorrows at “Chinese Restaurant”.
I’m not very PC and I think taking offense to trivial word choice is trivial… but naming a character oriental waitress isn’t doing you any favors. Now 2005 was certainly a different time but…this dialogue. I don’t really like it:
WAITRESS (Chinese accent): You like to order?
BILLY: Anything with shoots. Surprise me!
WAITRESS: House special has bean shoots. Very good.
To be fair, every character speaks in broken English so it has got that going for it. After their meal they each get a fortune cookie and I will give them credit. This is a clever way to include some dramatic irony of having the cookies relate to the characters in some way. For example:
MOLLY: (reads) Someone is entering your life. Loneliness fades away.
She gives the paper a double-take.
MOLLY: Wonder what it means?
BILLY: A boyfriend?
MOLLY: Who knows?
NO GOD! NO GOD PLEASE NO! NO NO NOOOO! Stop it, why is this a thing?
Zack’s fortune refers to how he does absolutely nothing and let’s face it you probably forgot he was even here.
Then Billy’s fortune reads to go to the top floor to visit Mr. Fing. Alright, it should be a drinking game that every time I mention a ridiculous name you should take a shot… I really need to see someone make a Pandamonium movie…I’ll hate it, but oh boy will I love it.
So they visit Mr. Fing and he gives them a Mogwai and tells them not to feed it after midnight…oh whoops I’m sorry wrong mystical Asian stereotype. Mr. Fing used to be a panda and he gives them a way to reclaim his wish power “save the life of another animal”.
You can start to see that this is the set up for some sort of lesson or at least be the ordeal to overcome. What does it mean to save an animal’s life, will we see Billy lose hope or change perspective? I don’t think it’s a great stipulation as it seems limited, but it is enough for a serviceable excuse to give our characters something they have to work towards. It’s not going to be easy to save an animals life, I don’t know how many times I have just stumbled across an animal in danger in a stroll in the park so obviously it won’t be easy…surely…right?
Synopsis: They immediately after stumble upon a husky puppy wedged between two boulders and Billy in what is barely an inconvenience is able to rescue the pup. Billy becomes irritated with the dog’s abundance of energy, while the kids decide to name the dog shoots. Billy is now able to use his magic once again, he conjures up a glass of water, a bed for shoots, and is able to cure the children’s mom. Billy concludes that he must become a panda again. He loves his new friends, but he has to be true to himself and that’s him as a panda.
Oh, fuck off! When I say immediately I mean Mr. Fing’s last line of dialogue is at the top of page 60. The animal is rescued on…PAGE 60! You couldn’t even humor your own plot for longer than a page! I swear this is madness! A BOULDER!!! When was the last time you heard of a dog being trapped under a BOULDER? Does this husky puppy have anything to do with the dog show from earlier? Noooo. Okay think about this with me for a second. This puppy is wedged between 2 boulders, Billy can’t use magic anymore, he lost it. Billy is strong enough to lift the boulder after what is described as “a few shaky tries”. The puppy is dislodged from the boulder and he’s fine. Not injured in the slightest and doesn’t need any medical attention at all. WHAT THE HELL! Are the boulders hollow! Even in bizarre cartoon/anime logic this is beyond serendipitous. This is lunacy why introduce a plot point to have it solved on the same page. Why make it so out of the realm of logic and reason. This is the point where I realized that we have gone even further beyond…this ain’t your ordinary whack script… this is truly something beyond my realm of comprehension and that is a very special thing to confront.
BILLY: They say don’t sweat the petty things. I say don’t pet the sweaty things.
HAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. What a knee slapper.
Want another one:
BILLY: Keep it up. You know what they do to dogs in China.
BILLY: IT’S DINNER TIME!
Words just cannot express how exasperated I am.
Billy has finally come to the conclusion that he is a panda, you know like he’s been saying the entire time. In order to explain himself he steals Tommy Pickles catchphrase because sure why not at this point.
BILLY: A pandas gotta do, what a pandas gotta do.
Billy explains that zoos aren’t that bad by using prison slang, saying that it’s “3 hots and a cot”. Initially, I was unfamiliar with the antiquated phrase and thought he was referring to hotties and I was like damn. Again, weird that your pro-zoo message is still treating it like a prison. This isn’t a pro-incarceration allegory is it. You are what you are born as and some people just aren’t fit to survive out there in the wild…oh my god.
And Then It Gets Weird…
Synopsis: The trio decide to make their final hours last, as they go out to a Yankees game and have another enjoyable day together. Bamboo grants them one final wish where the kids transform into animals and explore a wildlife utopia. After that Bamboo and Shoots goes into the zoo and Molly and Zack visit them. Molly wakes up the next day thinking it was all just a dream, but notices Bamboo’s earring and smiles.
It seems like we are wrapping up…why is there still over 20 pages. Everything set in New York has to have a scene at a Yankees game because fuck the Mets. We get a scene of a drunken man who drops his wallet and refuses to take it back because credits cards are evil or something. Sure, Capitalism bad. But than Molly Teash, such a goody two-shoes she returns the wallet to security even though it had $200 in it. You’re friends with a panda that can grant you endless wishes I don’t think financial hardship is something you’re concerned with at the moment but okay prove that this character is a good person unlike literally every other human in the script.
Also, I watch a lot of sports, I’m friends with Dude Sports Guy, I’ve been to a couple baseball games, I used to watch Sports Center every morning for years… I’ve never heard anyone cheer a home run by saying Slam bang! Maybe when Babe Ruth was slugging them over the fences, but I’ve never heard this can someone comment on this I kind of want to know if anyone has ever heard Slam bang!
Also this happens….
BAMBOO: I desperately want to remain Billy, and always be with you. But, I’m a panda.
MOLLY: You’re an exceptional panda.
She kisses him.
Thanks, I hate it. I just want to point out that Molly Teash and Billy/Bamboo the panda made it to first base and that’s probably farther then your favorite ship ever got so I hope you reflect upon that. Pour one out for every ship that didn’t get as far as this ship.
We have one more run in with the most incompetent police force in existence with: officer #1 and officer #2. I know with everything it shouldn’t bother me as much as it does but…why wouldn’t you use the same police officers from earlier? Is officer Unders okay? Unders…where are you?
Then I guess the acid finally kicked in and we get a fantastical scene in which the kids become animals and explore Zootopia. The sort of jarring intrusion just reminds me of this anime movie called Fireworks where randomly in the middle of there’s a magical princess song. It just sorts of hits you with a feeling of “what the hell is happening?” and it kind of comes and goes and I just accept it. There’s human Wack-a-mole, a baby giraffe makes a “big boomer”, shoots the dog talks and bear with me this is almost over.
Bamboo is returned to the zoo, Molly cries, and it was all just a dream fake-out. Wow was this the worst Free Willy remake.
Evaluation: Not Recommended
Pandamonium certainly doesn’t lack having something to say, but its delivery is shrouded in rather questionable execution. The characters offer no sense of authenticity, and all act far too simple with choppy dialogue. I think the panda with attitude could make for a remarkable kid’s character, but this iteration comes across with too little charm or humor. Characters are barely given lines that extend beyond four words, and with that they barely get to present a side of themselves beyond their stock purpose in the narrative.
The plot severely lacks a through line that it seems haphazardly composed and unfocused. None off the conflicts appear as the central one, whether it be: trying to reclaim Bamboo’s magic or return him to the zoo or even learning about the animal perspective from an actual animal and vice-versa; they all come and go without interacting or developing with one another. The sporadic plot structure helps maintain some semblance of energy in the piece but when as a whole there’s a noticeable lack of tension there’s little care for the fate of these characters.
Both the premise and the family values embedded throughout both showed glimmers of potential, but ultimately failed to capitalize on them. The idea of a wise cracking panda who acts as a mouthpiece for animal rights and teaching children morals through an imaginative adventure captures a speck of beloved Disney and Ghibli films. Unfortunately, Pandamonium fails to compare in expressing that idea with the same level of tenderness and consideration. Bamboo’s affinity for the zoo lifestyle over the wilderness or human life seems motivated by character rather than thematic message. The pro-zoo message is honestly perplexing with how it fails to set a character arc given Bamboo had always wanted to go back to the zoo. The fact that the character had no reluctance to abide by the thin plot obstacles and failed to make any solid arguments as to why he concluded this such teaches very little value to children audiences. When a character’s convictions are never tested and only stated it doesn’t assert the message too strongly.
The message to display more compassion towards animals is certainly commendable, but its treatment is almost too comedic to be taken with much seriousness. It would have been more impactful if Bamboo’s act of saving an animal in need had been one more present in reality and not rescuing a pup conveniently wedged underneath a boulder. It also would help if these animal rights talking points didn’t all come from Bamboo/Billy then they would seem less preachy and more of a mature lessons in discovering the world.
I would recommend passing on Pandamonium because despite some fun elements of fantasy, it fails to convey a great story that organically introduces noteworthy characters or moments of thrilling narrative. The imagination on display is certainly presenting ideas that could be enjoyable to children, but even children might not be too satisfied with the specific beats and directions the story goes in.
Closing Statements: Negativity, Writing, and Accomplishment
I’ve been hearing a lot lately that a lot of my fellow writers on the platform are not very fond of negative reviews and claim that there is little merit to being negative. So I guess these three posts have little merit than, because I talked ad nauseam about something I didn’t recommend. However, I thought Pandamonium was a interesting subject matter. I thought it’s faulty structure and execution made it a prime candidate to demonstrate what not to do in telling a story. I also thought some of the strange tangents and imaginatively bizarre plot made it an entertaining piece to talk about.
But what do I know, I’m an internet buffoon who struggles with Eng/Lit and can’t draw Sailor Moon. I’m probably wrong about this script being bad just like I’m wrong about pretty much everything.
“The screenplay PANDAMONIUM was a top Quarter Finalist in the 2002 Hollywood’s Next Success Screenwriting Contest.”Screenwriting Awards 2007 Richard Sartore Interview – Filmmakers.com
The best part about not showing your face, is that they’ll never see you cry.
As much as I’ve had my fun with this script, I do applaud Sartore for making it at the end of the day. It’s not easy committing yourself to writing a project and opening yourself to criticism. I don’t think it’s my idea of good but it was a lot of fun to read and reading it is something I don’t regret for a second. The worst thing you can do as a writer is make something to doesn’t elicit a response from your audience and this at the very least was compelling. Sartore wrote this because he has a passion for writing, and as somewhat of a writer myself I congratulate him on completing so many scripts and the success he’s found writing them. Here’s a quote from Sartore that really shows that he’s really doing it for the right reasons.
“If you are writing for the money, change careers. If you’re writing because you love to write, you have a chance to succeed as a screenwriter. One must be prepared to invest time, thought and the ability to accept criticism and rejection.”– Richard L. Sartore
Well, I can’t wait for no one to read this…hypothetical reader if you enjoyed this series and would like to maybe see more script reviews (maybe Sartore’s Chimpfusion) maybe I’d like to do them but for now hope you are having a lovely day, and I’ll see you at the ZOO!
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Twitter – Gellneko