A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids learn about the importance of saving endangered species like giant pandas and about the folklore surrounding the pandas.
Positive messages include the idea that fathers love sons unconditionally, even if they have to work a lot; the environmental lesson that there are animals nearing extinction and it's our collective duty to help save them; and that even young kids can make a big difference.
Positive Role Models
Ryan and Ling are brave kids who sacrifice their well-being to save the panda cub.
Violence & Scariness
In several scenes, the poachers look menacingly at the nature preserve workers. They skulk around with guns and scowls and cage a mother panda. They then kidnap a panda cub. The two kids fall in the river and down a waterfall a few times, but each time they manage to escape scratch-free. The poachers find the kids and panda and try to catch them, but the kids evade them thanks to sympathetic villagers.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Ling and Ryan flirt with each other and in one scene end up having to strip down to their underwear to get leeches off of their bodies. They then hide from each other, and Tyler makes a joke about how he's seen "naked girls" before on cable TV, so she shouldn't worry about him peeking.
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Insults like "stupid," "dimwit," "idiot," and "shut up."
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Products & Purchases
Brief references to the show American Gladiators and to Twinkies.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this live-action animal adventure, which follows a young American boy who ends up saving a panda cub, features some mild peril and threatening villians. The 10-year-old protagonist and his friend, a Chinese girl, face realistic panda poachers on several occasions and plummet dangerously into a river, as well as evade gun-wielding criminals as they attempt to travel back to safety. Kids will learn about pandas, Chinese folklore, and the unconditional nature of father-son relationships. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Probably the best thing about this movie is the pandas themselves. Through a combination of footage of real pandas and animatronic animals, the black-and-white animals steal the show from their live-action co-stars. The animals easily outshine the humans, especially the kids, who are alternately funny and overly precious (the scene where they both disrobe after being covered with leeches is also just bizarre and unnecessary). It's odd to see Lang, who's now best known as the crazy colonel in Avatar, 15 years younger and playing a father. He does his best to explain the importance of saving the pandas, but the movie ultimately rests on the shoulders of the two child actors.
Animal adventures, especially those featuring baby animals, are sure to tug at the heartstrings, and this one has the added drama of a dangerous crew of poachers trying to track down the kids and the panda cub. But the story feels a bit slow at times, especially when it comes down to the kids, who interact rather awkwardly with each other, even as they're supposed to grow into great friends. The action sequences, however, will intrigue children, and the pandas will draw in animal-loving audiences.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.