Making the Grades
Ryan Tyler (Ryan Slater) can't help but feel that his divorced father loves pandas more than him, and although he sounds excited about the idea with his friends, Ryan is a little apprehensive about flying to China to meet up with his dad who runs a reserve dedicated to protecting pandas. A desperate search for a missing panda cub greets Ryan the moment he arrives at the reserve, and he soon is at the heart of a race to save the bear from poachers.
One of the most effective (and manipulative) ways writers have of attracting a young audience is to present a scenario where children are searching for a parent. Think of other movies aimed at children, and you will be amazed at how many offer stories where a child spends the entire film dealing with a divorced, murdered, deceased or lost parent. Adding an animal just adds even more appeal.
Children often take very long journeys in these movies and in this one, Ryan is placed on a plane to fly to China by himself. Although his mother is concerned about him flying alone, she still has a level of apprehension that would be more appropriate for a son who is travelling to Grandma's house for the weekend, and not a country with another language and completely different culture. Even worse, Ryan's father gets busy saving pandas and forgets to pick him up at the airport. Fortunately, Ryan wanders into the streets of China, finds a van with a panda on the side, and climbs aboard. You may want to let your children know that foreign travel isn't quite this easy.
However, this movie does provide the usual adventure story with few concerns. Violence with a gun is introduced when the panda poachers shoot Ryan's dad in the leg, and later take some shots at Ryan and his friend. Otherwise, the film presents some beautiful views of China that differ from the usual bicycle filled streets, and may get your children interested in Chinese culture or protecting wildlife.