MARCH 15, 2011
As a vocal opponent of CGI, I was happy to see that Bear used an actual bear for pretty much every shot (I think a puppet arm/head was used in a few shots – hard to tell for reasons that I’ll explain later), instead of letting a computerized simulacrum of a bear attack our “heroes”. So yeah, this means that we don’t get a lot of actual bear on human violence, because they still haven’t made it so death row prisoners can be killed in movies for our entertainment, but at least it’s a real bear roaring and smashing up their minivan and what not. Also, he’s kind of cute when he’s not attacking – I would very much like to pat his head and give him honey.
Of course, maybe I’d feel different if he wasn’t the one I was rooting for. I am racking my brain, but I honestly believe that Bear features the most hateful, unsympathetic protagonists in movie history, and that includes the assholes from the Saw films. I actually spent a chunk of my viewing time trying to decide which one I hated the most – the drug using slutty girl? Her boyfriend Sam, a wannabe rock star who couldn’t take anything seriously and slept with his brother’s wife? Or said sister-in-law, Liz, who drinks whiskey despite knowing that she’s pregnant?
I finally decided on Liz’s cuckolded husband, Nick, who is not only just as scummy (something about embezzling that I couldn’t quite follow through the movie’s poor audio), but also causes all the problems when he decides to shoot a bear EIGHT times at close range, including when it’s retreating! He actually runs up behind it and shoots it in the ass. Then the film’s “villain” enters the story – the mate of the bear that they (he) just killed. The poor thing sits by its wife’s corpse, crying, before deciding to take revenge, Jaws 4 style (except in this movie’s defense, the bear doesn’t track them halfway around the world – it just continues to play Cujo and harass them while they are “trapped” in their car – since Nick used up all the bullets on the other bear).
And that’s pretty much the bulk of the movie – the four of them yell at each other (and the bear - some of Nick’s “insults” are simply divine; at one point he tells the bear he is going to “skull-fuck its babies”), come up with “escape” plans that are largely idiotic and never successful. At one point a truck drives nearby, and instead of getting out (which they can easily do) they just bang on the windows, as if he might have the ability to not only hear them from inside his own truck, but find them in the dark as he races by. Then again, the movie has a surreal approach to dark/light, as the sun seems to rise and set with alarming frequency and randomness. Oddly, the story seems to unfold in real time, but the sun pattern suggests 3-4 days, either because the director(s) or editor didn’t know what the fuck they were doing or they neglected to have a colorist finish up those “day for night” shots.
Then it takes a surreal turn that would have been amazing if the actors were any good and/or the characters were worth following into crazy-town (spoilers ahead!). After the druggie girlfriend gets killed (yay!), Nick finally decides to run, and he makes it to a steakhouse, where he says “Thank God!” after seeing a car, apparently unaware that there are people inside of the steakhouse that can help him more than a locked Porsche can. Anyway, the bear shows up, and then they cut back to the others, who are having a heart to heart about their lightly incestuous one night stand. Most folks would assume that they just didn’t want to show the kill or something, but just as Liz is about to tell Sam something BIG, Nick pounds on the door, all banged up... because the bear dragged him back there. Huh? Why didn’t the bear just kill him? Why would it drag a guy for a mile or so?
It gets better/stupider. Sam quickly figures out that the bear wanted them to suffer on an EMOTIONAL level, just as it is suffering from the death of its mate, and thus they all have to come clean with one another. The affair is exposed, Liz’s pregnancy is revealed (and Nick quickly realizes it’s not his because they haven’t made love for 5 months – why are they still married, exactly?), he tells Sam about his bankruptcy, and Sam admits in turn that there is no record deal. By dying, the druggie girl is spared having to admit anything about HERSELF to further appease the bear, who I guess has psychic powers because he’s not in the car to hear them apologize to one another, which I’d think would be an important part of his plan. Anyway, once everything is admitted/resolved, the two brothers get out of the car and... well I don’t know what happens. Sam seemingly tries to fight it so that the other two can get away, but then Nick decides to go back and die too, even though the bear was preoccupied. Real noble. Anyway, the bear then stares down Liz, and the two seem to mutually and silently call a truce. The bear heads off, she goes in the other direction, and they both mourn the loss of their spouse. I’m not even remotely making this up or exaggerating.
Now, if the movie starred, say, Will Forte, Paul Rudd, Kristen Wiig, and, I dunno, some other actress as the girl whose name I can’t recall, this would be the greatest movie ever made. They are genuinely funny and talented people who would be smart enough to play this knowingly straight, and thus make it a wonderfully batshit slice of entertainment, even if it was intended to be serious. But these actors are so bland and largely terrible (Sam can’t even say his lines correctly), it doesn’t work as drama OR silly camp. It’s just a crushing, obnoxious bore.
And the transfer on Xbox looked horrendous. It looked OK on my internet browser, and other movies on Xbox looked fine, but Bear just looked overly compressed and “mushy” (technical term), for whatever reason. So if you simply must watch Bear, and it’s on Xbox (or PS3 I assume), let me know if you have the same problem. I know my connection was strong because I even got the HD version of the transfer (and again, other stuff looked as it should), so it wasn’t that. Weird. But as I alluded to before, this made it hard to tell if it was a real bear in some shots or just a puppet or something; it seemed like it got larger during close-ups.
I was surprised to learn in the end credits that there was only one bear (named “Blue”), because I figured they’d have a few. Like, “This bear is good at smashing the car, but this one can roar on cue!” I was far less surprised to learn that the movie was made at an actual animal training facility, which explained why the movie seemed to be pro-bear and didn’t have it die at the end. In fact I suspected perhaps the two main actors were not actors at all, but animal trainers who they used because they’d be able to interact with the bears a bit more than a regular actor, but both have several non-animal acting credits prior to the film (one was on Days Of Our Lives, and now I wish I spelled his name wrong a couple times).
Also in the end credits is a message about said facility, which apparently burned to the ground shortly after filming due to one of the CA forest fires in 2009. None of the animals (or employees) were harmed, but their habitats were ruined and they are now rebuilding. They also link to a site (www.rebuildingtheranch.com) where you can help, but the site appears to be dead now and I couldn’t find an alternative. Hopefully they weren’t forced to close for good because they pinned all their hopes for rebuilding on folks who stuck around all the way to the end credits of fucking Bear.
What say you?