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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Treadwell is erratic, passionate, and dedicated to "his" bears.
Violence & Scariness
Bears fight, interviewees describe the bodies and deaths of Treadwell and girlfriend, killed by a bear.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Treadwell talks about sex and yearning.
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Lots of harsh language, used in anger and frustration.
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Products & Purchases
Scene from Starsky and Hutch, from Treadwell's acting past.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is in no way a kids' documentary, even though it features frequent images of grizzly bears and foxes. The film frankly considers the deaths of Treadwell and his girlfriend, attacked by a bear under apparently harrowing conditions. The film includes several images of bears menacing or fighting with one another, as well as some "confessional" moments by Treadwell that might disturb younger viewers (he's very emotional, uses frequent foul language, and behaves in a paranoid manner). Throughout the film, Herzog argues with Treadwell about "nature" -- where Treadwell respects the wildness of "his" bears, he also see them as noble, even friendly creatures; by contrast, Herzog sees them as fierce, brutal creatures. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This smart, provocative film centers on an "argument" between filmmaker Werner Herzog and his subject. Where Treadwell calls the bears his "friends," and names them ("Mr. Chocolate," "Sergeant Brown," "Wendy"), Herzog calls the animals wild beasts. Some interviewees see Treadwell as "crossing a line" he should have left alone. Others see him as a man who lost his way ("He meant well, but to me, he was acting like he dealing with people in bear costumes"). According to Herzog's narration, Treadwell "stylized himself as Prince Valiant, fighting the bad guys." These opponents were ambiguous and legion, including poachers, other campers, park authorities, even Treadwell's own demons. A onetime waiter, failed actor, and recovering alcoholic, he sought a cause, a community in which he could feel comfortable and sympathetically reflected.
In the bears, the film proposes, Treadwell found companionship and refuge, a way to escape or maybe remake himself. To achieve this end, he rejected his unhappy past, spent more and more time in the parks, "methodically" taping over scenes he saw as "mistakes," perfecting the image he wanted to present, whether to himself or some future audience is not clear. "It is a simpler world," Herzog remarks of Treadwell's seeming sanctuary, "but it is a harsh, brutal world. We can't live in that world because we're very different from them."
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Our Editors Recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate