When I sat down to watch the We Bare Bears movie I was expecting it to be a light and fun beacon of hope in these dark times. The show has always been that, with the wacky antics of the bears a constant source of comfort. I got that sure, but what I was surprised and delighted by was how much the central message of the series was brought to the forefront to tremendous and incredibly relevant effect.
To put it simply, I didn’t expect the We Bare Bears movie to take on prejudice and intolerance and do it in such a big way. The show has always been diverse and its central message has been about the need to fit in and belong but this took it to another level. It isn’t just some fun jokes about the bears being inept at trying to fit in; its whole conflict is about the struggle the bears face from society itself.
The plot follows the bears trying once again to become popular and it horrifically backfires on them. This leads to the government being called in and the bears fleeing for their lives to Canada. On that journey we see their fears at what will happen to them if they’re caught and more of the inner struggles they’ve grappled with for the whole show. These characters will do anything to fit in and it’s often been used as a point of comedy but here we get a deeper exploration of what that struggle has done to them and their family.
For as serious as that sounds there’s still a lot of great humor to be had (and the movie is very very funny) but it’s those somber moments that make this film be so much more than what you might expect. That sort of melancholy has always been the show’s secret strength and one I wished it was allowed to implement more often. Thankfully the film goes at it with full force and allows the bears to finally address what they’ve only partially dealt with throughout its run.
The intolerance they face. Here it’s in the form of Agent Trout and his attempt to capture the bears and put them away. The allegory is not lost and especially since creator Daniel Chong has said the series was always supposed to be an allegory for what it feels like to be a minority in America, the choice of this plot point does not go unnoticed. It infuses every moment of the film with more power and relevance than any other story the show has had before. It takes a hard stance that anyone who has to go through what the bears do in this film, being hunted down by the law simply for existing, are the ones we should be rooting for, not the intolerant law enforcement. It’s extremely cathartic, now more than ever, to watch the film take such glee in the bears fight against intolerance.
This isn’t the only strength of the film. The relationship between Grizz, Panda, and Ice Bear is stronger than ever. We finally get the story of how the three came to be together and how much it continues to impact them. We see them pushed to their limits and they come out stronger for it.
We Bare Bears: The Movie is an excellent film, one that feels relevant without losing the fun that made the show a fan favorite. I can’t stress enough the show’s trademark humor is still here, it’s just amplified by the high stakes that come with the Bears fighting a manifestation of everything they’ve struggled against.
Ice Bear still gets the great one-liners, the show is tapped into YouTube culture more than any other, and it still has the hijinks that only this show can deliver. I wish the side characters of the series had gotten a little more time to shine but when the story for the bears is so good it’s a minor nitpick in what is otherwise a perfect send off to the bears we know and love.
There’s still the Baby Bears spin-off coming of course but if this is the final adventure for the adult Bears and their zany adventures I’m extremely satisfied. This film is everything that made the show great taken to another level. It’ll make you laugh, cry, and best of all? You’ll feel seen and validated in your own struggles.