Film Review: Sneezing Baby Panda: The Movie

This review was published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 6th May 2014.

In 2006, a sixteen second clip of a baby panda sneezing was uploaded on to YouTube.
195,875,796 views later (as of today), the viral video has generated hundreds of tribute and parody spin-offs and was named one of YouTube’s Best Fifty Videos by Time Magazine. Although uploaded by a fan, the original footage was taken by Australian documentary filmmakers Lesley Hammond and Jenny Walsh, who have now unleashed upon the world, Sneezing Baby Panda: The Movie. A cynical cash-in perhaps, but after sitting through this bizarre motion picture, I would suggest that they just relax and enjoy their YouTube royalties instead.

Billed as a mockumentary, SBP:TM is the cinematic equivalent of rogue taxidermy. My best description of this strange creature is a doco-narrative-comedy (pronounced “rubbish”).

Our sneezing panda, Chi Chi, portrayed by renown panda thespian Tai Shan (the first panda born at the National Zoo in Washington D.C.) tells us about his life through the irritating voice over work of Jane Ubrien. Via the magic of editing, footage of pandas doing stuff has been crafted to produce a storyline, of sorts. To add “fun”, sound effects have also been added. All that’s missing is Jo Beth Taylor. Think a panda farting is funny? Trust me, it is less so by the fourth time.

To add a human element to the film, we also follow zoologist Marnie Tyler (Amber Clayton) who is attempting to secure Chi Chi for the fictitious Ullamulla Zoo (the only zoo in Australia that is entirely run by two people). The only problem is that she has no idea where in China the panda resides. Rather than do some research online (she knows how the internet works because we see her watching that damn video a dozen times) Marnie simply purchases an airline ticket and begins her quest on foot, asking bemused Chinese locals if they recognises Chi Chi from a photo. Did I mention that the UN is also in hot pursuit? They apparently need a live panda too.

The 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province which jeopardised two hundred and eighty pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve and killed one is an enclosure collapse is briefly touched upon. I would have happily sat through a documentary about this event, but instead we have pandas falling in love, being bullied by “thug” pandas and copious unfunny clips of historical, sporting and cultural events with a panda digitally inserted, Forrest Gump style. Don’t ask me to explain the dinosaurs either.

The novelty wears thin really, really quickly and SBP:TM’s eighty nine minute run time drags. I would happily endure the same amount of time watching unedited footage of pandas doing their thing in the wild, or even better still, the uber-cute Amber Clayton washing her car and doing the grocery shopping.

There is nothing in SBP:TM that cannot be found in the sixteen seconds of the original viral video. This point is made even more obvious when the original clip is show multiple times throughout the film. I stopped counting at twenty.

With distribution deals in China sealed and other international territories in negotiation, the makers of Sneezing Baby Panda: The Movie may well have the last laugh, or sneeze.

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Published in: on May 12, 2014 at 00:15  Leave a Comment  
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