A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Compassion and respect for animals and nature are displayed. Learning and understanding is celebrated as a means to discovering what to do in life.
Positive Role Models
Bob treats the people and animals he comes across with respect. He also mediates between the Native Americans and the government, helping them to reach a mutually beneficial resolution. However, he also shows an aggressive side. Sam Eagle Speaker drinks, fights, shoots bears, and commits arson. Outdated terms and depictions used for Native Americans.
Violence & Scariness
Some violence toward people and animals. The three bear cub's mother is shot dead and the body is shown. A cub is shot and is shown bleeding and unconscious, but not dead. A character tries to hit a flying owl with a broom. A fight between two characters involves multiple punches to the face and one of them being knocked out. The same two characters have another fight, exchanging blows on the ground while a dog snaps at their legs. Both have blood on their faces. Character with large knife threatens to scalp someone. Someone burns down a cabin with gasoline. Government workers shot at by unseen sniper.
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Native Americans referred to as "Indians." "Aw, nuts” is used in frustration.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Aggressive character described as having been "boozing it up." They are later told to "sober up" after trying to attack someone.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Bears and I is a live-action Disney movie with violent scenes involving animals and humans, and outdated terms such as Native Americans being referred to as "Indians." The movie is based on the 1968 book -- and true story -- by Robert F. Leslie and deals with issues including hunting and Native American disputes with the U.S. government. Bob Leslie (Patrick Wayne) is a Vietnam War veteran who goes to the lakeside village of his fallen comrade to deliver his possessions to his father, Chief Peter A-Tas-Ka-Nay (Chief Dan George). Seeking the quiet life, Bob decides to stay and starts caring for three bears orphaned by a hunter. Bob finds himself in numerous physical fights, including one in which he repeatedly punches a man in the face, knocking him unconscious. Bob's cabin is burned down in an arson attack and the forest around it catches fire. Some animals are shown in close proximity to the fire, while in other scenes, bears are seen with leashes on -- raising questions about the welfare of the animals during filming. As part of the storyline, bears are shot, with one animal being killed -- its lifeless body is depicted on screen. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The gorgeous mountain setting is the star of the show in this movie, with its natural beauty lovingly captured in Technicolor. The Bears and I lays out its tone with the opening credits, showing a rambler winding through the mountains to the sound of John Denver. Its star, Patrick Wayne (son of John Wayne) gives lead character Bob Leslie the warmth needed to be a man who'll adopt wild bear cubs, mediate violent disputes between Native Americans and the U.S. government, but also readily use his fists when he crosses paths with his adversary, Sam Eagle Speaker (Valentin de Vargas).
The movie's best when showing the natural world, with its brilliant vistas and the innately cute cubs. That said, the movie does depict bears in leashes and animals in close proximity to fire -- a reminder of when the welfare of animals on set was not a primary concern. There's also outdated terms such as referring to Native Americans as "Indians." Still, thanks to a satisfying conclusion, The Bears and I navigates its way to being an enjoyable, steady drama.
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.