A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Intended to entertain, not educate.
Imparts lessons about the importance of overcoming one's fears by facing them head on -- not a message that will work for everyone.
Positive Role Models
Sam bravely faces his fears.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of fearful imagery to illustrate the importance of overcoming fears, such as scary shadows or loud noises. It also employs a slapstick, cartoon-y peril throughout -- the characters are sent flailing down a snowy mountain side; a patch of ice breaks loose and a boy falls down it, rolling into a giant snowball that ping-pongs around the landscape; a giant monster lunges at a boy and his penguin friends. There are lots of near-misses -- dodging falling stalactites and even polar bear farts and scary height challenges -- but everyone escapes unscathed.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My Friend Bernard is meant to help a child overcome fears by facing them, but in order to do that, it sets up a young boy of indeterminate age, likely a toddler, in a nonstop saturation of peril that he must face -- noises, shadows, heights, monsters, and lots and lots of falling. Some challenges are more absurd than others -- fighting a dragon, anyone? -- and it's balanced with lots of humor (some of which ventures into potty humor territory), but for some kids, the positive message about facing what frightens you could easily be lost amid all the brouhaha. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
My Friend Bernard certainly means well in its quest to teach youngsters that their deepest fears are better faced than avoided. But it does that by jam-packing 70 minutes with nonstop frights like a series of scary dominos to knock down one by one. In Sam's world, the only way out is through. And in an effort to keep the pace going, My Friend Bernard overdoes the action with a trial-by-fire ethos.
It doesn't help that the adventure storyline feels needlessly convoluted, that the polar bear is confusingly presented as both friend and foe, and that the attempt to make every stop on this epic rescue-thon a teachable moment wears thin. Kids may enjoy the silly penguin characters and laugh at bear fart jokes, but parents may find this a tough one to get through. More significantly, parents may find this an oversaturated, lesson-packed attempt at diffusing fear for younger kids, who likely prefer to space their frights out over longer than 70 minutes.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.