The Care Bears Movie – (1985)
Director: Ama Selznick
Starring: Mickey Rooney, Jackie Burroughs, Billie Mae Richards
Screenplay by: Peter Sauder
I return from a surprisingly disappointing vacation and a three-day sickness a bitter, angry man, perturbed at the world for their utter enjoyment of life and health as I suffer through another daily grind of unfriendly coworkers and apathetic bosses. My rage seethes slowly and I wish they all could know the suffering that I felt.
But Lo! The Care Bears, with their ever-watchful eye over the suspecting public, have come to me upon their cloud-cars and rainbow-teleportation devices to teach me about sharing, caring, and, uh, bear-ing, softening my heart, and leaving me a cheerful, happier person. I am healthy, and now I only say “Fuck you” to myself instead of out-loud. This is how you defined progress in the 80s, people. Besides, their movie made $23 million, the highest grossing non-Disney movie at that time. Somehow, caring, love, and friendship is profitable. Now only if Facebook could figure out that formula…
NOSTALGIC LENS: Besides a number bears doing their belly thing, which is called the “Care Bear Stare” (WHAT?), I don’t remember too much about it. I do know that either this or the sequel have an incredibly good, sad ending theme, and that I had cried while listening to it (I was rather sensitive when I was young, shut up). As an aside: the modern Care Bears is a joke; while a decent enough show, it only has five characters – the original C-Bears numbered in the twenties. That’s when we had time to memorize that kind of thing.
DOES IT HOLD UP: I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this. I was preparing myself to be bored by the excessive love/friendship preaching that’s notorious for these kinds of childhood fluff-balls. But then I remembered an incident about a year ago, while over a friend’s house. As a joke, he put on My Little Ponies, another show notorious for its cuteness. However, the villain, whose name escapes me and, sure, I could look it up, but we’re talking about MY LITTLE PONIES here, was actually a legit bad guy who seemed hell bent on a little more than stopping kids from hugging each other. He wanted to turn the Ponies into his personal killing army with black magic. Whoa.
And so, while The Care Bears Movie doesn’t exactly push into that intriguing realm of darkness, it does surprise with a somewhat engaging adventure story. Sure, it starts in the typical way: nice old man telling a cute story; delightful theme song with light, goofy antics, the Care Bears replying to some lonely, introverted orphans.
Some nifty stuff starts to happen, though; a magic book corrupts the all-around fuck-up Nicholas and turns him evil. Well, not evil, just uncaring; which spreads and causes the home of the Care Bears, Care-A-Lot, to fall apart. They try to send the orphans home but in the midst of the transport, shit goes wrong and they disappear.
Before I continue, I want to note a few things. Firstly, the Bears are a pretty competent unit that’s put together for such a mediocre and essentially worthless task. They seem to have a structure and clear-defined roles, and they work together rather well to do the most abstract thing in the universe; to make people care. But this goes beyond just being magically nice cuddly-toys. Their land and society EXISTS and THRIVES on caring. They do what they do to save themselves. Sure, it’s nice to learn a few lessons about love and friendship, but let’s not be naïve; they need to save their very existence. Believe me, if the only way to save America is to kiss babies eighty times a day, well, we’d be puckering up a lot.
With their world in danger (and, I guess, some kids to inspire), a ton of bears, lead by Tender Heart, go on a mission to find the missing orphans. On their quest, they enter the Forest of Feeling (yeah, this kind of name-thing continues throughout the picture), and while there’s really nothing exciting that happens, it still manages to drive some action forward, with the Bears or the orphans getting into some sort of trouble, and some of the Forest of Feeling-ers (Feeling-ites?) would arrive and save them. The entertaining value here is seeing the new characters and how they help the Bears, and yet, at the same time, seeing the Bears pull their own weight and do some saving themselves. There’s a really good balance here.
The exposition is bad, and the music isn’t too much better (although, there is something nice about the songs; they’re composed well, if lacking quality lyrics, singers, and instruments). But the action trade-offs in those two clips are quite nice, and might keep the parents from going too crazy.
… until the third act. The lameness, which was kept at bay for the most part, comes full force at the end, with Nicholas running around like an idiot trying to find random park junk for a spell. And he chases the orphans to the worse song ever written, ever. The trade-off in the action of the Bears and the Feeling Folks (that sounds creepy) is gone, and their powers become worthless when the orphans bitch about love and junk, winning over Nicholas’s heart. It’s disappointing, too, especially since you’d think the climax would contain the most badasseray, with some crazy magic spells, some evil beasts, maybe a dead Bear. Well, not so much the last point. But instead of a cuddly but aggressive fight, we’re left with the power of WORDS. In this case, words indeed do hurt– the person is pain just happens to be the viewer.
Also… “Aren’t parents great!?” This is an actual line in the movie.
IN A NUTSHELL: The storyteller is actually Nicholas all grown up. Bitch about that “spoiler” all you want—you weren’t going to see it anyway. I wouldn’t recommend it, either, if even for the nostalgic desire. The animation isn’t that great, the songs go from mediocre to downright horrid, the voice work likewise, and the story is barely competent. But it… works. IMDB has it at five stars, and, yeah, that’s about right. I admit, though, I found it more enjoyable than I expected, but I think it’s because I had really low expectations.
November 2nd: The Care Bears Movie 2: A New Generation
November 9th: The Secret of NIMH