Awfully Good: The Amazing Panda Adventure + 3 Ninjas (video)

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Between KUNG FU PANDA 3 and that viral video of the panda playing in the snow, this seems like an appropriate week to revisit…


The Amazing Panda Adventure (1995)


Director: Christopher Cain
Stars: Ryan Slater, Yi Ding, Stephen Lang


Christian Slater's little brother gets to play with a baby panda for 84 minutes. That son of… 

THE AMAZING PANDA ADVENTURE exists for one reason and one reason only—to show off how f*cking adorable that baby panda is. It's cuteness porn, plain and simple, and that's more than enough to please its intended childhood audience. I know I wore out my VHS copy of this movie in the late 90s, fast-forwarding past the wafer-thin plot and loud cultural stereotypes just to get to the parts where the baby panda is rolling down a hill or cuddling a tree. Trust me, pretty much everything I mock in the following paragraphs are of actual little consequence, because when that damn panda is onscreen you won't be paying attention to anything else. 

Jansport's latest line of backpacks had animal rights groups rightfully concerned. 

I should go ahead and put an asterisk on that last sentence and say that this is the case any time there's a real panda onscreen, because there is definitely many a shot where THE AMAZING PANDA ADVENTURE uses a painfully fake impostor bear. Rick Baker's company is responsible for the robot panda, and the animatronic results are laughably unconvincing. And why do they even need a robot panda, you ask? Because this sadistic children's movie inexplicably enjoys torturing the hell out of the lovable title character. Watch as the panda falls off a bridge in to raging river (twice!), gets violently thrown from a speeding horse cart, gets flung in to the air and hangs off the side of a cliff, and is starved of nutrition until it almost dies. You know, I'm beginning to think THE AMAZING PANDA ADVENTURE doesn't really like pandas all that much…

Airborne Panda: Great band name, bad thing to do in real life.  

Everything not-panda about this movie predictably sucks. The story can bearly sustain 80 minutes, let alone any human characters worth caring about.  It centers on Ryan, an annoying American boy who goes to visit his semi-estranged father in China, where he manages a panda reserve. Literally as soon as he arrives, Ryan stumbles on to a plot involving two poachers trying to kidnap a baby panda, ending up on the run in the wilderness with the panda cub and a young Chinese girl, Ling. The rest of the movie is just random time-wasting scenes attempting to showcase the panda. Now they lost the panda in a field and have to chase it! Now they have to watch the panda try to climb over a big log! Now they have to wait around in this Tibetan village that worships pandas! (Since most of this features the panda, I'm not really complaining.) 

Ryan remembers that his brother once starred in a movie called HARD RAIN.

The two kid actors are pretty bad, especially Ryan "Christian's brother" Slater. The film also handles cultural stereotypes with the sensitivity of a jackhammer. The first time Ryan sees Ling, he actually refers to her as "that funny looking girl." And of course since this takes place in Asia, there's a scene where the American kid has to eat monkey brains. There's also the odd moment where Ryan and Ling discover they're covered in leeches and quickly undress in front of each other, having awkward pre-pubescent sexual tension as they talk about seeing each other naked. Can you bring back the panda please?

Ling realizes Ryan has more Wang than her local phone book. 

A special shoutout goes to AVATAR villain Stephen Lang, who plays Ryan's father, for overcoming true adversity. In addition to being saddled with some terrible dialogue ("I'm not going to lose another panda!"), he's also written to be one of the worst fathers in cinematic history. Here's a list of things this dad does: He abandons his son, travels halfway around the world to work with pandas, and doesn't see him for two years. When his son begrudgingly goes to visit him in China, he forgets to pick him up at the airport because he was too busy hanging out with pandas. After his son—who doesn't speak Chinese—finally makes it to his dad's house after taking a bus full of strangers, the dad once again immediately leaves his son alone so he can go off in to the woods to look at more pandas. When the dad encounters poachers, he is willing to sacrifice his life and takes a bullet for the pandas while his son is standing nearby. He then takes a medical helicopter and chooses to bring the panda and leave his son in the middle of the Chinese wilderness—the same forest where he was literally just shot by poachers. And when the son later falls from a bridge in to a wild river ten stories below, instead of looking for him, good ol' dad goes home to wait and see if he's activated the panda's tracking beacon. 

Stephen Lang is exactly as excited for the AVATAR sequels as you and I.

So as you probably guessed, the panda is really the only good thing about THE AMAZING PANDA ADVENTURE. Thank God it's freaking adorable. 

Some of the kids' worst lines. And some of the adults' as well. Pretty much everyone is bad in this movie. 

I put together a collection of the panda's cutest moments. You're welcome. (BONUS: An example of the fake animatronic panda for comparison.)

The kids see each other naked, but thankfully for the FBI, we don't. 

This movie has a baby panda in it. Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • The panda falls, trips or stumbles adorably
  • The panda is in danger of dying
  • The dad abandons or attempts to abandon his son 
  • American Gladiators is mentioned
  • The old Chinese man is angry

Double shot if:

  • Someone has hairy armpits
  • You spot camel toe (guys included)

Hold on there, Hulkster! We've also got a new episode of Awfully Good Movies, which tears the shirt off the 3 Ninjas franchise with Hulk Hogan rampaging through one of the cheesier (oh yes, there's a scale) flicks in his resume. Enjoy!

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


About the Author