The Polar Bear King Movie Poster Image

The Polar Bear King

Norwegian fairy tale is confusing, long, and a bit scary.
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 1994
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Intended to entertain rather than educate.

Positive messages

Good triumphs over evil. Even after mistakes are made, acknowledging those mistakes and making amends can lead to positive results.

Positive role models

The old king is good and has the best interests of his people at heart, even though he's slow to accept the unusual. The young king is an exemplary hero. The princess is courageous, tries hard to fulfill her tasks, and, even though she makes a major mistake, doesn't give up. The evil witch is wicked and pays for her behavior.

Violence & scariness

Though the audience understands that the polar bear is good and harmless, the huge animal (played by a man in a bear suit) roars, stands poised to attack, and thunders over the land. There are several scenes in which wolves howl and race across the landscape, seeming to chase innocents. The evil witch is classically scary -- arching eyebrows, cackling voice, dark, bubbling laboratory equipment. The witch's boss -- a devilish, shrieking character -- appears and disappears in clouds of smoke.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that some scary animal images, along with the purposefully frightening wicked enchantress and her followers and the "semi-disappearance" of three young children, make this an iffy choice for very young or sensitive viewers. Snarling wolves with teeth bared and fiery speed threaten and chase the human characters on more than one occasion. A polar bear (who is easily recognized as a man in a bear suit) often rears up and roars but is never really dangerous. There are no attacks or injuries, and the soldiers sent to do battle turn and run rather than engage the beasts. The enchantress works in a lab bubbling with steam and poisons. She works her magic with blasts of smoke and flashes of lightning, conjuring up truly bizarre, devil-like beings.

Kids say

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What's the story?

In a land of sunshine and flowers, a wicked enchantress, hoping to rule the world, places a curse on a handsome young king when he refuses to join her evil campaign. As punishment, she turns him into a polar bear. The curse will last for seven years, during which time he will revert to human form every night at midnight. He must never allow anyone to see his face, or he will be forced to marry the enchantress and be cursed forever. Journeying to the icy north where he will more easily adapt to the environment, THE POLAR BEAR KING meets the princess of his dreams. He tells her his story and gains her love and trust. Against the wishes of her caring father, the princess goes with him to his kingdom, where she becomes his wife and bears his children. But the king's future is endangered anew when, just before the curse is to end, the princess disobeys him and sneaks a look at his face while he's asleep. Her mistake sets the enchantress in motion once again.

Is it any good?


It's hard to determine whether it's the story, with its myriad confusing rules that define the "legend," or the production itself that makes this film so unenjoyable. With uniformly terrible acting, laughable attempts at "special" effects (the man in the polar bear suit and his ridiculous vocalizations are almost indescribable), and an assortment of grotesque characters (i.e., a banquet scene with bastions of ugly and bizarre guests slobbering over great plates of disgusting food), only the most undiscerning viewer will find anything to like in this clumsy attempt to bring a Norwegian folk tale to life.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about bringing folk tales to the screen. Why is it important to keep the story simple and make the characters' behavior believable? Does this film do that?

  • Why do you think the princess disobeyed her husband's important request and accepted the gift from her sisters? How did the princess make up for her terrible mistake?

  • Look up the term "folk tale." What stories have you read or movies have you seen that are memorable folk tales?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 23, 1994
DVD/Streaming release date:March 23, 2000
Cast:Jack Fjeldstad, Maria Bonnevie, Tobias Hoesl
Director:Ola Solum
Studio:Film Teknikk Norge
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Wild animals
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:some scary scenes

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Beautiful fairy tale film

This is a beautifully filmed live-action adaptation of a Scandinavian fairy tale. I have watched it with children younger than 8, although of course if your particular child is sensitive about scary elements in traditional fairy tales, it might be best to hold off on this one. I was disappointed to see low ratings for this film on this site because it does have strong role models and messages in it--a devoted father, a loyal and loving and brave heroine who is more selfless than her sisters (who are rather shallow but still loyal to the family), a virtuous young king who won't give in to the evil schemes of the witch, and right-minded servants who help the deserving heroes escape. This tale type is especially popular these days because the protagonist is a resourceful woman who goes on a dangerous quest to rescue her husband. Viewers can relate to her coming-of-age conflict between loyalty to her family home in the "winter land" and her lifelong dreams that she is destined to go off to another kingdom, the "summer land." The film is thought-provoking in that even Satan himself points out that "too much evil destroys evil," and then the good characters are able to use the witch's excessive ambitions against her and destroy her. There is a heart-warming intergenerational family reunion at the end. The special effects may seem outdated today but I still think they are charming in the way they depict fairy tale magic and lots of small children like watching old movies and cartoons. I show this film to my college class on folktales and literature.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byRaithlyn February 21, 2011

A movie for mature, culturally interested children.

This is a fanciful adaptation of Norwegian folk legends. While certainly not a blockbuster or a roaringly entertaining flick, it still provides a beautifully told story that is commonly seen in watered-down, very PC versions. While sensitive children might not benefit (as there are scenes of wild animals and the subject of overt evil) a mature child, older child, or someone interested in world cultures would be able to handle this just fine as well as learning about different kinds of oral traditions. The cinematography is beautifully done, especially for a low-budget and older film, and great attention is paid to props and costumes in making this feel more like a filmed play. The story is timeless: faithfulness, keeping your promises, and having the courage to face your own mistakes and your fears. In the end, as with all truly fantastic movies, Good triumphs over Evil.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages