“We Bare Bears: The Movie” stars Eric Edelstein, Bobby Moynihan, Demetri Martin, and Marc Evan Jackson. Released on June 30, 2020, the film has a group of bears journeying to Canada in order to escape from a Wildlife Control agent.
The film is directed by Daniel Chong, and it is based on the television series We Bare Bears created by Chong, which is based on his webcomic The Three Bare Bears. Cartoon Network has its share of ups and downs when it comes to their programs, but it did offer some pretty popular shows in the 2010s that managed to keep its brand going, such as “Teen Titans Go!”, “Steven Universe”, “The Amazing World of Gumball”, and “We Bare Bears”. For those who haven’t watched Cartoon Network in a long time, “We Bare Bears” is an animated comedy series about three different bears who live underneath the same roof, treat each other like brothers, and attempt to fit in with the human population in San Francisco. It premiered on the channel on July 25, 2015 after the success of the pilot episode that was showcased at the KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival in 2014. It gained positive reviews from critics for its humor and its handling of specific themes like modern millennial anxieties, and it lasted for four seasons. A couple of days after the show’s final episode aired, Cartoon Network announced that they were developing a movie based on the show as well as a spin-off series that focuses on the younger versions of the bears. Right now, my eyes are set on the former. I was able to watch plenty of episodes of “We Bare Bears” whenever it was on television, and it was actually pretty entertaining in my opinion. It’s not one of my favorite shows in the world, but it had enough suitable moments for me to be excited for the bears’ first-ever full-length adventure. Last year, I took the opportunity to review another Cartoon Network film, “Steven Universe: The Movie”, and since I felt confident in talking about a film that’s made for the small screen, I decided to do the same with “We Bare Bears: The Movie”. Would it be able to satisfy both fans and newcomers? Let’s find out.
The story follows Grizz (Edelstein), Panda (Moynihan), and Ice Bear (Martin), three bears who get into trouble once again when their chaotic attempts to be accepted into society ignited a series of complaints from the residents. Seeing that the bears are becoming a threat to the human population, Wildlife Control Agent Trout (Jackson) proposes an idea to separate the bears from each other and relocate them to a wildlife preserve. This resulted in the bears going on a perilous road trip to seek refuge in Canada. Along the way, they experience several obstacles that will test their brotherhood bond. Similar to the likes of “Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo” and “Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Big Picture Show”, “We Bare Bears: The Movie” serves as a conclusion to the series it’s based on, bringing the characters’ four-season-long story arc to a respectable close. The film also explores several topics like acceptance, racial discrimination, and family separation, which are inspired by Daniel Chong’s experience as a minority in America, resulting in its story being a bit darker compared to the light-hearted tone of the show. This is another film that successfully teaches its viewers about the importance of accepting people for who they are regardless of their differences. More importantly, it shows that brotherhood is more than just being related by blood. It’s about those who love, protect, and support one another no matter what. It’s what I would call “brothers by heart”. For what it’s worth, I thought the film did wonders in representing these types of themes in a family-friendly matter. Aside from that, how is the film itself? Well, it doesn’t reach the same levels as “Steven Universe: The Movie” nor have the same quality as the animated films from Disney and Pixar, but as a movie about three talking bears traveling to Canada, it’s an endearing diversion that will impress fans of the show. Plus, it offered enough material to get newcomers interested. The three main characters are just as likable as they were in the show, and the main actors (Edelstein, Moynihan, and Martin) behind them did a remarkable job in providing some entertaining voice work. I’m also happy with how they developed Grizz. Aside from coming up with ways to either fit into society or solve difficult problems, Grizz is also facing the responsibility of keeping his non-related family together as an older brother, especially in the midst of being forced to separate. I think older brothers in real life will be able to relate to this character because of his determination and his kind-hearted nature. I also felt that both Panda and Ice Bear had enough charm in their personalities to win me over. Like the show, The film’s animation style as a whole was simplistically colorful and appealing. It’s more of a slice-of-life type of animation style rather than the usual cartoon-like format that offers boatloads of slapstick and gross-out gags every few seconds. It’s not going to win any major awards for its quality, but for the most part, it’s good enough to display its cute, imaginative, and humorous moments. Speaking of humorous, the humor is quite effective in terms of balancing the modern pop culture references with the bears’ personality. As for its flaws, the film’s plot did have a difficult time fitting in with its timely themes. Clocking in at around 70 minutes, “We Bare Bears” came off as a fast-paced and basic road trip adventure that somehow failed to expand on certain elements that could’ve make its messages much more meaningful. I think if they spend a few more minutes on the bears’ backstory, particularly Grizz’s, and some of the supporting characters who are already friends with the bears like Charlie the Bigfoot (Jason Lee) and child prodigy Chloe Park (Charlyne Yi), it would’ve been good enough to emphasize the importance of family and acceptance. I also felt that Agent Trout, the film’s main antagonist, wasn’t all that impressive as a character. His only intention was to separate the bears and maintain the balance between animal nature and human nature, which does sound like a suitable threat to the main characters, but the way they executed this type of scenario was about as flat as a flat tire.
Overall, the plot in “We Bare Bears: The Movie” does come off as a hit-and-miss, but its heartwarming nature and relevant themes are respectable enough to represent an endearing conclusion to one of Cartoon Network’s most likable shows of the 2010s. There are a couple of plot elements that could’ve been explored a bit more and its antagonist was anything but memorable. However, it was able to make up for its noticeable flaws by providing plenty of charm into its characters, the animation, and its humor that will satisfy fans and people who are unfamiliar with the show. This is the type of film that could’ve been a great conclusion but wound up being a decent conclusion instead, which is fine by me because a decent movie is always better than a bad one. The film is available to rent or buy on any digital platform as of this writing, so if you and your kids are still waiting for the new SpongeBob movie to come out, this animated comedy should be able to tide you over for a while.