Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Brendan Michael Coughlin, Patrick Scott Lewis, Mary Alexandra Stiefvater, Katie Lowes
Directed by John Rebel
Two couples jockeying for the cover of “Too Stupid to Live” Magazine decide to take a detour through a remote stretch of California forest. In no time their mini-van gets a flat. A grizzly bear wanders nearby. One of them panics, whips out a handgun, and unloads an entire clip into it. Mama bear arrives to find her cub dead. Now these four have to contend with a bigger, meaner, angrier bear with divine retribution on her mind, and they have no means to defend themselves since numbnuts already pumped all his bullets into the younger bear.
Bear is rather bare bones plot-wise and almost as simplistic as its title. There is only so much you can do with a cast of four, a wrecked mini-van, and a live bear in a small section of woodland.
The crux of the non-bear related drama centers around a successful stockbroker older brother constantly belittling his partying kid brother to give up his pipe dream of becoming a famous rock musician in favor of getting a real job, and while he’s at it, he might want to consider getting a girlfriend that’s more marriage material (that last part won’t be an issue for very long). For a while there it seemed like these two brothers were in a race to see who could be the bigger jerk.
Bear wastes almost no time getting right to these four broken down and trapped in their mini-van under siege by a pissed off bear. Entertaining enough; yet, the dilemma I found myself facing was whether or not I was supposed to be rooting for the people or the bear. Mama bear is right to be enraged, and all four initially came across as obnoxious yokels for whom grisly death would be doing the world a favor.
Let’s sample some of the actual dialogue during the first half of their bear attack ordeal.
“Go! Go! Go! Go!”
“Move! Move! Move!”
“That’s a big bear!”
“Did you hear that?”
“What are you doing?”
“Would you two little bitches shut up?”
“Suck my dick!” – spoken by a female character
“I’m going to eat your babies! Fuck you! Fuck you!”
“I’m going to skull fuck your stupid fucking face!”
There were moments where I realized what a remake of William Girdler’s Grizzly would sound like if written by Rob Zombie.
This quartet’s poor decision-making skills also left me wanting to slap my forehead. They had an opportunity to ram the bear to death with their vehicle as it was pressed against a tree, swiping at one of them that had climbed up to get away, but instead they just back the car up to the tree close enough for the person to jump down onto the roof to safety. Minutes later, now inside the wrecked mini-van the bear just toppled over before heading off to take a smoke break or something, the chance to flag down a passing truck is missed because these dolts try to get the driver’s attention by staying inside the trashed car yelling and beating on the insides making muffled noises rather than actually getting out to flag the motorist down. After all of this has occurred, they’re remarkably casual about their predicament until ‘Smokey the Death Wish Bear’ comes back to get the job done.
To my dismay, the fast-paced opening led to a fairly uneventful midsection that very much began to lose me. To my surprise, I got sucked back in for the finale by some genuine pathos that somehow made me care about the fate of characters I previously found detestable.
The younger brother we’re told watches a lot of TV animal show, which is how he knows so much about the nature of bears and their spiritual significance according to Native American legend. The latter sounds a lot like superstitious mumbo jumbo until it becomes apparent that this bear is smarter than your average bear and isn’t just out for mere bloody vengeance; it actually wants them to confront their own deep, dark secrets before becoming human picnic baskets. It sounds silly, and to a certain extent it is, but somehow it actually worked for me and added some much needed emotional weight to what had up to that point been just another nature gone amok movie about stupid people in the woods getting killed by a vicious animal.
Both a positive and a negative is the choice to use an actual live bear throughout the film. The movie is called Bear, and you get a bear and lots of it. However, while a live bear adds a certain degree of realism, it also detracts a bit when it comes time for characters to fight back or get mauled because of the restrictions it puts on actors interacting with a living, breathing grizzly bear.
For all its flaws I still found this low budget shot-on-digital Jaws-with-claws a mildly entertaining diversion. It probably helped that Bear was the sixth film I viewed in a 48-hour period. That this helped should tell you something about how entertaining the other five were.
2 1/2 out of 5
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