Hallo Panda (2006) Poster

(2006)

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1/10
Great premise, badly executed.
annahauser20005 January 2008
I was definitely sold after reading the wonderfully surreal synopsis, and so settled down to watch it in anticipation. Unfortunately, the film never lived up to the promise of the premise of a lovelorn zoo-keeper struggling to encourage a panda to mate, all along knowing that if he fails he will have to "service" the panda himself, thereby securing the future of at least one more generation of pandas. The surreal twist here is that the panda talks, at least to the zoo-keeper, lending much comedy potential with regards to the zoo-keeper's mating encouragement, (plus an easy route into expositional dialogue).

The film suffers because it doesn't appear to be that sure whose story it is actually telling; is it the zoo-keeper's or the panda's? It should be the zoo-keeper's; a story of unrequited love that just happens to involve a talking panda, but the lure of such a charmingly disenchanted panda is too great, and the two stories get in each other's way as each weakly battles for top spot but fails to dominate the other.

The film looks good, the panda looks great, and there are some genuine nice moments, but ultimately this is a great idea let down by lazy writing and poor dialogue. The impression given is that the filmmakers were so wrapped up in the mechanics and visuals of bringing the panda and his world to life, that they overlooked the simple fact that the heartbeat of the film lay with the human characters, specifically the zoo-keeper and the object of his love, and freezing them out with uninspiring exchanges and very poor dialogue has the effect of leaving us out in the cold with them.

As is the case with so many of these kinds of films, the problems were undoubtedly born at script level, with character and dialogue overlooked in the heady excitement of the film-making process. You can't help wonder what the outcome would have been had the filmmakers not been in such a rush to show the world their comedy panda, and took some time out to engage in a proper character/dialogue rework and polish.

It is a real shame, as I believe this had the potential to become a true cinematic gem.
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Wonderfully quirky (and that is a compliment and a criticism)
bob the moo6 May 2007
Mark works at the local zoo and deeply fancies fellow employee and moth expert Sarah. However he has gone to the pub with her, chatted to her, expressed an interest in things she is interested in but yet she steadfastly refuses to see him as anything other than a friend. Will he ever be able to break into a relationship stage with it? Ironic then that Mark is also in charge of helping an disinterested male panda breed with Mao-Mao, a visiting female of the species.

The plot summary, the humour, the direction all signpost this film as being something quirky and unusual that a couple of us will stumble into thanks to a good eye for short films in the TV schedules and a ready supply of video tapes. This is how it was for me and I wasn't sure what it was doing as I started watching it. However it very quickly won me over by how imaginative and silly the whole thing was. On one hand we had a genuine thread where a man cannot seem to develop a relationship with a colleague (who is a geek as well) but then on the other we have this other side where he confides in a talking panda who has issues of his own to be dealing with! It is a really nice mix and it makes the main (?) human plot seem more interesting than it actually is.

It is a shame that it isn't as brilliant as the concept sounds it could have been. It isn't "real" enough in regards the feelings but yet it is funny or clever enough to really succeed on those terms along. However it is consistently unusual and, dare I say, quirky and for me this was enough to make it worth seeing. The Blaine's write and direct really well and the film has a great look and feel to it. The cast are solid with the surprise inclusion of Wong as the panda (Wong now in UK sci-fi Sunshine). The panda suit is really impressive; of course you're never going to mistake it for the real thing but it has great expression and facial movements.

Overall then this is a wonderfully quirky short film. Is it all it could be in every area? Well, no, and that is a shame but it has enough going for it to make for an enjoyable 25 minutes even it hasn't got enough to make it stick in your memory or come rushing back for repeat viewings.
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