Language barriers are nothing when you’ve got the raw human emotions of companionship, love and hate. And super cute pandas. While the entire film was in Mandarin, we recently enjoyed 熊猫回家路 (Xiong Mao Hui Jia Lu) or “Trail of the Panda” at our nearby budget theater because cute baby animals don’t need subtitles. Because if you’re going to a movie about pandas do you want lots of dialog and plot development? No, you want 88 minutes of ridiculously adorable pandas rolling around and looking cuter than kittens in teacups.
The movie tells the story of an orphaned, friendless little boy, Lu, who discovers a hurt baby panda that’s been separated from it mother (I’m getting choked up just writing this). Lu names his chubby panda companion “Pang Pang” which literally translates as “Fat Fat” and sets out to reunite the fatty with its (even fatter) mother.
Lu has to hide Pang Pang from the would-be hunters who are trying to track down the cub and sell him to some horrible circus where he’d be forced to serve tea to Western businessmen. I don’t really know, I didn’t understand the complicated parts of the movie that involved lots of dialog so I just made it up. There’s many an exciting chase scene in the movie where the clumsy panda cub, with the help of some incoherent editing, evades and escapes from two rifle-wielding men and their bloodthirsty but inept German shepherds.
Apparently using real pandas to film was not always easy. The director explains: “You cannot shout at them or beat them. The only thing we could do was wait for these superstars to be in the mood.” Unlike regular actors, which I guess Chinese directors can shout and beat into the mood at will.
Distributed by Disney, “Trail of the Panda” follows the form of all those other cute-kid-plus-animal-movies (Fly Away Home, Free Willy, It).