The Bear

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
The Bear Movie Poster Image
Live-action animal saga is incredible -- and a bit scary.
  • PG
  • 1989
  • 94 minutes

Parents say

age 7+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 1 review

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Celebrates life, nature. Pan-species eco-lesson is spelled out in the closing quotation from author James Oliver Curwood, that sparing a life -- animal or human -- is nobler than killing. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though humans start out to be animals' antagonists, by the end one -- maybe both -- of them learn to exhibit kindness towards the bears they have been trying to kill.

Violence

Animal blood is spilled as bears fight a cougar and hunting dogs -- leaving one dog badly wounded and later shot by its human master to put it out of its misery. Bloody spatter as a hunter shoots and wounds the grizzly. A rockslide is fatal to a mama bear. Victims of bear attacks include deer and slain and bloody horses.

Sex

Bear sex is briefly depicted (watched uncomprehendingly by the innocent cub).

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One kooky scene in which a bear intoxicated on wild mushrooms has weird dreams. Humans smoke pipes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this nature drama depicts realistic animal violence: a bear kills and eats deer for food, kills horses in act of revenge, and a cougar bloodies a bear cub. Human hunters shoot bear. Bear sex is shown -- indistinctly, from a distance -- but no question what is going on. Ditto for bears pooping in the woods. Weird sequence has an innocent bear cub eating hallucination-inducing mushrooms.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written by413804 February 4, 2012

Beautiful

Pretty beautiful film about nature. Really little kids may find it boring.
Adult Written bykristinm10 January 1, 2018

A kids movie that only the grown ups will finish

This is a beautifully shot, lovely movie. Our 9 and 11 year old boys started asking "how much longer" 25 minutes in and didn't make it to the ha... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 12, 2015

Just the scene before the end

Yes, this movie does have blood but a really disturbing scene in where a mountain lion attacks a bear cub. The poor bear club is covered with bloody scratches (... Continue reading

What's the story?

Unlike some other animal dramas we could mention, there are no talking-critters-with-celebrity-voices in THE BEAR and very often no dialogue at all, as director Jean-Jacques Annaud blended trained wildlife with realistic animatronics by the Jim Henson Creature Shop. In the North American wilderness of yesteryear, a grizzly bear cub is orphaned when a his mother, digging out a bees' underground hive for honey, is killed in a rockfall. The defenseless cub starts to follow a huge alpha-male bear, who gruffly tolerates the tiny sidekick as he goes about his routine of eating, preying, and mating. But the "grizzly king" is himself the target of a pair of hunters accumulating bear skins to sell. They shoot and wound the adult bear, who takes murderous revenge, destroying the men's camp, and maiming/killing their tracking dogs and horses. The hunters happen to capture the cub, and they tease and warm up to the helpless furball. But still a confrontation looms between the humans and the deadly male grizzly

Is it any good?

Seven years in the making by French filmmakers (though the minimal dialogue in most versions is English), The Bear is a simply told but visually and emotionally spectacular all-ages drama. While depicting the playfulness, the fear, and the personalities of its ursine characters, it never turns its animal actors into substitutes for people --  a remarkable feat in itself, and very much key to the theme of respecting nature and all life, human and non-human.

The bear actor Bart (who weighed around a ton when the film was made) and his offscreen handlers do astounding work, evoking a primal ferocity worthy of a sci-fi epic's T.rex when the grizzly king is riled, yet also show a range of gentleness and mercy. When this film premiered in Europe it drew crowds comparable to E.T. - The Extraterrestrial and actually outgrossed another, very different animal movie competing at the box office:  Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Take that as evidence that this is a must-see. The same film team would later do Two Brothers, another recommended pro-animal-rights drama concerning a pair of exploited Bengal tigers. This film is also on the New York Times list of the 100 "essential" children's movies.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the relationships between people and animals. Hunters in the movie seem to have much less compassion than the animals do. What do kids think about hunting? Animals hunt other animals regularly -- is that different than humans hunting animals?

  • How is this animal movie different from others? What is the appeal of talking animals? Is it cruel to force animals to work in the movie industry?

  • Talk about the violence in this movie. Were the scenes of animals fighting scarier than the scenes of humans hunting? Did you feel afraid for the baby bear?

Movie details

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