We Bare Bears: The Movie Review: Home Sweet Bears

It is hard to imagine a worse time for We Bare Bears: The Movie to release, all things considered. While it centers on the bears themselves, brothers Grizz, Panda, and Ice Bear, it’s largely about an overwhelming, disproportionate police response to their oftentimes benign antics. Given the current climate, it’s not exactly surprising that it was ultimately delayed from its initial release date. Even so, the movie manages to be a fun, if sometimes extremely uncomfortable, reminder of what made the series so great.

While it doesn't make light of police brutality or discrimination by any means, some of the themes and scenes could have played out extremely poorly if juxtaposed with the ongoing real-life protests against the same problems that had really kicked into gear right around the time it was intended to originally release. The delay was a smart move.

We Bare Bears: The Movie serves as the series finale for the show of the same name and, as mentioned, follows the three bears as they are forced to leave home after a series of increasingly wacky hijinks cause the National Wildlife Control’s Agent Trout, expertly voiced by Marc Evan Jackson, to get involved. Jackson manages to go from cartoonishly evil to completely unhinged from animated reality over the course of the film’s run time and is basically the perfect person for the role -- as anyone that’s seen The Good Place should already know.

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(Photo: Cartoon Network)

More than the others, the movie focuses on Grizz and his relationship with his younger brothers, something which causes him to always try to fix things and look on the bright side for their sake if nobody else’s. Sometimes, holding everything together isn’t a one-bear problem to solve, the movie seems to say. It takes, in some cases literally, a village.

When not directly confronting the horrors of policing borders, detaining people (in this case bears), and everything else wrong with the federal response to local problems, We Bare Bears: The Movie explores what it means to be a family, what makes a home, and how we all should and often do look out for each other. It doesn’t always work, but not because the material itself is bad; it just sometimes comes across as poorly paced.

If you’re somehow not familiar with the show, each episode is an 11-minute vignette that opens and closes before it has ever worn out its welcome. Cartoon Network’s animated shows, by and large, follow this same sort of construction, and just about any given episode of We Bare Bears nails exactly what it’s looking to accomplish without so much as a wasted second.

But the movie is over an hour long, and the formula doesn’t really translate as well as it has for other shows. Some gags go on for slightly too long, and certain sequences feel entirely unnecessary. In one example, the movie jokes about old memes at its very beginning only to dip into that same well in the middle for a second serving that almost feels like it could have been excised from the film entirely without affecting it. Again, it’s funny, but in some ways it feels like an 11-minute episode embedded directly into the movie like some kind of weird ad break.

If it were to have been released in, say, the fall of last year, I suspect that the large involvement of the police in the movie’s storyline would have been something I’d glossed over. As it stands, in June of this year, there is just something that grates against itself when the movie goes from making lava lamp jokes to having a villain gleefully exclaiming that detaining a character is as close as he ever might get to actually hunting them. More than once, I could feel my heart beating in my chest as my pulse raced. Then again, maybe that uncomfortable feeling was always the point, and it’s just exacerbated by current events. Ultimately, the movie works and is better for its decision to include what are admittedly some heavy themes. I suspect, given time, I might think even better of it.

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Rating: 4 out of 5

We Bare Bears: The Movie is set to release for purchase on digital platforms tomorrow, June 30th. You can check out all of our previous coverage of the franchise right here.