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Kristen Bell narrates the new IMAX original film Pandas, but really…are we going there for the celeb that narrates, or those adorable bears?

David Douglas and Drew Fellman (Born to be Wild, Island of Lemurs) bring us to Giant Panda Breeding in China. Since there are only 2,000 pandas left in the wild, the scientists are working on releasing the ones that are born in captivity.

Hou Rong has raised over 200 pandas while working as director of research since the mid-90s. She makes a trek to New Hampshire to learn a bit from Ben Kilham, who has spent decades raising orphaned black bears. Watching him with the cubs is incredible, although I did get a little nervous. We all remember what happened at the end of the documentary Grizzly Man.

An American conservation biologist (Jake Owens) joins the Chinese crew to help with the raising of Qian Qian, which we’re lucky enough to watch grow in this outstanding film.

Whether it’s watching the panda cubs drink milk out of bottles, or play with scientists (and each other), it’s a cuteness overload.

As a music snob, I feel the only misstep in the movie was playing ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” as the panda cubs slide around and fall off the tree branches. I would’ve gone with The White Stripes “We’re Going to be Friends,” or perhaps “Ebony & Ivory.” But hey…they get a lot of credit for grabbing Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh to do the score.

You’ll learn a lot about pandas (for example, did you know they eat 50 pounds of bamboo a day?). And you’ll also get small doses of drama. I’ve always wondered how well animals can do in the wild when released from captivity. Well, this has you on the edge of your seat when things don’t go so well for Qian Qian.

It’s G rated, and only 45 minutes, so the young ones won’t get restless. It’s the perfect movie to bring the family to when you’re on your next trip to Balboa Park.

I’m giving it 4 stars.


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