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By Phil Hall | March 23, 2005

No, this is not a sequel to John Waters’ “A Dirty Shame.” The bear in this case is a polar bear, and the boy is the child of an Inuit (the PC term for Eskimo) who is kidnaped in infancy by the Arctic ursine from his human mother. And why would a polar bear kidnap a human child? It seems Mama Polar Bear gave birth to a stillborn cub, so Papa Polar Bear (on the advice of a gabby raven, sort of the Greenland equivalent of the stereotypical gay best friend) takes the human child for his spouse to raise as her own. Mama Inuit goes into a major funk when her baby is abducted while Papa Inuit grabs his spear and spends years searching for the bears who ran off with his kid.

Does any of this make sense? Even by the low expectation standards of kiddie fables, this tale is so ridiculous that it becomes perversely funny. It is never explained how a human child can survive the Arctic cold, or where the bears get the wardrobe to keep the kid clothed against the elements.

However, this Danish animated film has plenty of unfunny things which disqualify it from being recommended as a family film – especially the harsh sequences of the stillborn cub birth and the anguish suffered by the Inuit mother after her baby is stolen. For adults, there are plenty of other considerations to disqualify this from being seen, including the worst English dubbing this side of a Godzilla romp and the crudest animation to come along since the glory days of Hanna-Barbera.

“The Boy Who Wanted to be a Bear” may not be the worst animated film ever made, but it is so badly made and so patently stupid that it is impossible for anyone who loves animation (or bears) to endure. Will someone please page John Waters and his bears?

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  1. Michele says:

    I just saw this movie in the original Danish language – as a kind of language exercise, being an expat in Denmark.
    The review complains that the story doesn’t make sense because a human child would not survive the cold. Well, true, the story is not very realistic – of course no human child would survive the cold, much less be adopted by a polar bear, meet the spirit of the mountain or grow into an actual bear. But this is supposed to be a story, not a documentary, and its deeper moving themes (developing and asserting one’s own self identity, life and death, the interaction of humans and animals) are very clearly represented. So what is the point, again?
    I can’t comment on the English dubbing, but I’m left wondering whether Phil Hall actually paid much attention watching the movie before writing this review. Shocking as it may be, the origin of the garments is explained quite directly in the movie: the stillborn bear cub! Maybe the English version has been edited to spare the delicate public this crude but extremely realistic detail – in in the Arctic nothing is ever wasted when it can support life in any way. So much for the delicate public, which then complains for lack of realism! At the same time the reviewer is disturbed by the display of a stillborn cub in a film meant for kids. I would also add the killing of the bear foster mother, the absence of the male bear (which the boy shows to miss), and a number of other very realistic details from the real – and cruel – world. This goes straight to the point expressed in the review that this can’t be recommended as a family film. I believe this is an interesting culture clash between the Danish makers and the American reviewer.
    As a foreigner (I’m from northern Italy) been in Denmark for several years now, I see that Danes are very relaxed when it comes to their kids exposure to many topics much frowned upon in most other cultures. Be it sexuality, death, and other such big things of real life. As a matter of facts, this is a society where school boys and girls go alone to school from the start, with no concerns for who knows what kind of assault; where serious traumas from divorced parents is relatively uncommon; where by far most young people get out of their parents’ home and become independent very early, even before completing their education. And where the general population scores highest in international ‘happiness’ polls. I don’t know if there is a cause-effect relation, but seen in this context I don’t think The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear is a stupid film at all. Besides actually containing a multitude of references to Inuit culture which may have slipped the reviewer, it is one of those films ideally suited to smart kids with intelligent parents. Parents looking for opportunities to answer important questions instead of numbing down their kids with plastic fantasies of rosy worlds.

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