China: The Panda Adventure

A simplistic, cliche-ridden docudrama about New York socialite Ruth Harkness, who traveled to China in 1936 and brought the first live giant panda back to the U.S. (Su Lin, who ended her days at the Brookfield Zoo). As Harkness, Maria Bello (Coyote Ugly) is a noble and spunky widow who doggedly takes up the mission of her late naturalist husband, overcoming a big-game hunter, slippery slopes, reluctant natives, a solicitous guide, and mud on her pants. Veteran filmmaker Robert M. Young skips over Harkness's real-life eccentricities and the controversy over how the animals were caught and caged; this large-format film is mostly a paean to the beloved animals and the majestic bamboo forest they inhabit. Ironically, the film's panda and her cubs were loaned out by the San Diego Zoo, but of course they steal every scene, and the Chinese mountains are breathtakingly beautiful. 50 min.

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