The Care Bears Movie Review
And you thought we were only here to point out low-frequency distortion on uncut Region 3 special editions of Umberto Lenzi gut-crunchers...
The Care Bears started life as a series of greeting cards published by the American Greeting Card company in 1981. Within two years, they had moved off the shelves of newsagents and into toy shops as a range of teddy bears with cutesy names including Tenderheart, Love-A-Lot, Grumpy Bear, Secrets Bear and babies Hugs and Tugs. Each Care Bear was covered in pastel-shaded fur with an emblem on their tummy to show who they were - Tenderheart had a heart, Secrets Bear had a padlock and Grumpy Bear had a little blue rain cloud. They all lived in Care-A-Lot, a paradise in the clouds, filled with rainbows and love, in which they help children on Earth who are feeling unloved and alone. Aaaaww, sweet.
Too sweet, actually - the care bears are so sugary that you'll want to go clean your teeth afterwards but they were enormously successful. During 1984, there was a Care Bears animated television series and in 1985, this film appeared, grossing just over $22m worldwide.
I have difficulty in reviewing this film. I remember the Care Bears from when they were first available and disliked the concept of a toy that was tied into a complete range of collectibles and that includes Star Wars, Masters Of The Universe and Transformers, a point I'll make just before I get accused of not understanding Care Bears because they're a "girl thing". OK so that makes me sound like rather a humourless child - not true! - but I'm serious about what entertains me. Twenty years on and the Care Bears still make me queasy although admittedly not as much as My Little Pony does.
So, in reviewing this film, I have asked my 3-year old daughter, Madeleine, to help as she has yet to demonstrate the cynicism I hold dear. So, I've typed up what she has said as follows:
Madeleine's Review: "I just like the Care Bears. Tenderheart is my favourite and she is happy. Nicholas is a bad boy in the middle but good at the start and the end. Kim and Jason are nice and help the Care Bears but get caught by a bad tree. There is a bad face in a book that I don't like and the Care Bears have to get her. There is a nice lion who helps them. Fettucini is angry at Nicholas but he is nice at the end too. Everyone dances at the end and there is a party. The face in the book is not there. It is a good film and I just like it."
That is pretty much the entire story - the Care Bears try to help Kim (Cree Summer) and Jason (Sunny Besen Thrasher), two children whose parents have left them and Nicholas, a young boy who works for the magician in the circus, Fettucini, and who is without friends. The Care Bears work their magic on Kim and Jason but Nicholas takes possession of a book in which an evil spirit lives who takes advantage of Nicholas' feelings of loneliness to try and rid the world of caring. Care-A-Lot is affected by this evil spirit and the Care Bears have to leave it to find their Caring Cousins, including Braveheart Lion (Harry Dean Stanton during the musical sections only and, no, I'm not joking) in the Forest Of Feeling to join forces and defeat the evil spirit before Care-A-Lot is destroyed. Needless to say, it all ends happily with Nicholas, Kim and Jason now friends.
The film is book ended by sections set in Cherrywood orphanage with Mr Cherrywood (Mickey Rooney), who tells the story of the Care Bears to the young girls who live there and who provides the surprise ending, which is actually quite affecting and may pass very young children by.
Do you know, it is not all bad. The animation is definitely not up to Disney's standard - compare The Care Bears Movie to Beauty And The Beast, for example, and you will understand why Disney animated films cost so much to make. Instead, the animation in The Care Bears Movie would be on a par with that used in television - think the Dungeons And Dragons cartoon for a reference point of a similar age. Young girls will love it as it is brightly coloured, not awfully long and the Care Bears will appear to be an endearing group of characters. Boys will not like it as there just isn't enough action in it. Where boys want explosions, trucks transforming into robots and aliens, the closest the Care Bears gets to action is the Care Bear Stare, when they join forces to defeat an evil bird.
So choose your audience carefully when selecting The Care Bears Movie as pre-bedtime, winding down entertainment.
The film has been transferred in 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic but I am not sure whether or not that was the original aspect ratio or not. As it would be commonplace for studios to develop animated features with an eye on the VHS market with scenes framed for a full screen viewing, I am assuming that 1.33:1 is the original aspect ratio. There is also the fact that many studios think that children cannot handle black bars on a widescreen transfer, which is, of course, complete nonsense but it's an attitude that seems to persist.
Aside from a question over the aspect ratio, the film is really well transferred. Although the animation is not of that high a quality, the colours are rich, which is necessary given the design of the Care Bears, and the image is very sharp.
The film is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack, available in English, German, French and Italian. The soundtracks are clean with very little background noise although the separation between the Left and Right channels could be better.
The songs are a highlight, being written and performed by Carole King of Tapestry fame and former partner of Gerry Goffin, who wrote an enormous number of classic 60's pop songs together. It's true that she probably didn't put as much effort into writing songs for The Care Bears Movie as she did when writing "Pleasant Valley Sunday" or "(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman" but she is a genuine talent and does improve the overall feel of the film.
Trailer(2m04s, 1.33:1 Non-Anamorphic, 2.0 Stereo): This summarises the story but is otherwise of little excitement.
This years sees the twentieth anniversary of the production of the first range of Care Bear toys and the release of this DVD has surely been timed to coincide both with this milestone and the return of the Care Bears to the shelves of toy shops.
I was surprised by The Care Bears Movie in that it was better that I thought it might be. I would not go so far as to say that adults will get a lot out of it as it does not contain the layers of humour we have come to expect from animated films, particularly those from Disney and Pixar, where some jokes are designed to appeal to adults and others to children. The Care Bears Movie is strictly a kids film although as my daughter demonstrated, it is a good example of what should appeal to very young girls and that is the key to whether or not you should purchase this. If you have a young daughter and she is now showing an interest in the Care Bears, or you are buying them for her to pass on your childhood memories, there are much worse purchases you could make...
...like My Little Pony.