Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story

 
(i)

 

Inspiring true story of teen boy making a difference.
  • Review Date: November 9, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn about civic engagement and activism. They'll also learn about this rare British Columbia bear and a little about how a scientist went about proving it was a different species.

Positive messages

The strong message that even one voice can have the power to change the world if it's persistent and passionate enough. However there are some stereotypes here that stand out: the loggers are cruel and threatening -- even violent -- and other activists are called "freaks" who no one will listen to for dressing like hippies and protesting with signs on government property.

Positive role models

Simon Jackson's passion for his cause and his persistence in the face of adversity is admirable. Though there's one scene where he takes his parents' car without asking and is grounded. His friend Marcus shoplifts and the only repercussion is disdain from her father. Simon's mentor doesn't believe Simon can make a difference at first but then comes around to help him any way he can.

Violence & scariness

A bear almost attacks Simon and then two bears fight each other. Simon is repeatedly rear-ended and then run off the road while driving, suffering a broken leg. Simon gets some threatening phone calls and emails.

Sexy stuff

One kiss and some mild innuendo.

Language

"Hell" and "friggin" are said the most with a few emails to Simon shown that say "burn in hell." "S--t" may have been said once but it's barely audible; plus "bloody," "piss off," "hard ass," "a-hole," and "screwed you over."

Consumerism

Practically an ad for the band The Trews. Simon gets tickets and is invited on stage to speak.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this uplifting movie about a teen activist who started "the world's largest environmental network of young people" will be of interest to activist tweens and up. Except for some language -- mostly "hell" and "friggin" -- and a car getting run off the road, the content is pretty mild. One long scene plays out like a big ad for the band The Trews as the band plays a song and then invites Simon on stage to talk about saving the spirit bear's habitat.

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What's the story?

Out hiking in British Columbia, 15-year-old Simon Jackson (Mark Rendall) encounters a black bear who looks like he's about to charge. Then along comes a mysterious white bear who fights him off, leaving Simon awed and determined to learn more. He discovers it's called a spirit bear, very rare, and its home is directly in the path of a large lumber company ready to chop down its old-growth forest habitat. Simon immediately starts a "save the spirit bear" campaign trying to get heard any way he can. He learns he has to be pushy -- something that doesn't come naturally to the shy teen -- very clever, and work on his network of young supporters. There are many setbacks, however, like the logging company president who belittles him in a school debate and angry loggers who even try to run him off the road.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

SPIRIT BEAR is sure to speak to activists who think they're too young to make a difference. Simon's a wonderful role model for kids. On that level this true story is highly recommended.

As far as the quality of filmmaking goes, though, it could use a little spit and polish. The trying-to-be-hip peppy soundtrack cuts in and out jarringly and the storytelling jumps around some. Some characters are a bit too one-dimensional, like the politician (Pamela Sinha) and the logging company president (Ed Begley Jr.). But all in all it's still fine family entertainment that will get kids thinking about what they're passionate about.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the idea that one person can make a difference. How did Simon reach out to get others involved? How did his persistence and passion pay off in the end? Can you think of other people like Simon who have changed the world for better?

  • Families can also talk about stereotypes. Simon and his friend Marcus call the other activists they see "freaks" and the only time loggers are really shown they are acting aggressively. Did you notice that in the film? Do you think either of those groups deserved to be shown in a better light?

  • Families can also read more about the spirit bear and the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition. See the Other Resources section for further reading.

Movie details

DVD release date:February 21, 2006
Cast:Ed Begley Jr., Graham Greene, Mark Rendall
Director:Stefan Scaini
Studio:Platinum Disc
Genre:Drama
Run time:91 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Spirit Bear: The Simon Jackson Story was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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