A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Great Bear is a Danish animated adventure tale that has been re-voiced for English-speaking audiences. A number of suspenseful and violent scenes make it best suited for older kids and tweens. Two children (with British accents) and an assortment of often-magical forest creatures, including a lovable bear who towers over his domain, are threatened by shotgun fire, landslides, fire, animal traps, and the savagery of a fanatical hunter. One particularly graphic scene shows the hunter crushing a bird in his hand. Because both the pace and storytelling style are different from the usual U.S. fare, it may take a few moments for viewers to adapt to the movie's rhythms, but it's worth the effort. Strong but subtle messages are delivered; relationships are relatable and shaded; and the animation is innovative and beautifully executed. (Spoiler alert: Several valiant characters momentarily appear to be dead, and the villain is killed.)
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What's the story?
THE GREAT BEAR finds young siblings Jonathan and Sophie on a summer visit to their grandfather's woodland home. Jonathan is annoyed that his little sister is making the trip with him, so he teases and bullies her as only big brothers can. One day, the teasing goes too far, and Sophie runs into the vast forbidden forest at the edge of Grandfather's garden. Frightened and guilty, Jonathan takes off after her. What follows is a perilous adventure as the two children come upon a myriad of strange and magical animals, including the legendary Great Bear, a giant, lovable creature who towers over the magnificent forest. Jonathan and Sophie's lives and the life of the Great Bear are threatened by a hunter, whose misunderstanding of the bear's nature makes him a brutal, obsessive enemy. Only great resourcefulness, bravery, and the help of the forest's wonderful inhabitants give the two children a fighting chance to save the bear and make their way home again.
Is it any good?
It took a few years for this quietly stunning Danish adventure to find a U.S. distributor, but it's been well worth the wait. Not as fast-paced and comic as many of the homegrown CGI products, it's closer in spirit to Japanese anime films. The underlying messages, the originality, and the well-developed characterizations make this a special film. The animation is distinctive as well, beautifully rendering the forest and nature, especially the bear. It's a film for kids who are comfortable with some scares and intensity; the suspenseful and violent scenes are, indeed, suspenseful and violent but never gratuitously. Highly recommended for families with older kids and tweens who like to watch innovative, engaging movies together.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the differences between this film, made in Denmark, and animated films made in the U.S. Think about the artwork, the pace, the tone, and the story. Did you adjust to the differences as you watched?
Describe the sibling relationship between Jonathan and Sophie. How accurate was it in terms of your experience? Why is this a good movie to share with family?
Though we think of cartoons as entertainment for kids, animated films are made for all ages. Why is it important for parents and kids to know who the intended audience is, especially in this movie?
- On DVD or streaming: June 10, 2014
- Cast: Oliver Lambert, Lilly Lambert, Jules Werner
- Director: Esben Toft Jacobsen
- Studio: Copenhagen Bombay
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Wild Animals
- Run time: 73 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: mild violence and peril
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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