"Big Bear” marks the directorial debut of actor Joey Kern, who stars along with Pablo Schreiber (“Orange Is the New Black”), Adam Brody, Tyler Labine, Zachary Knighton, and Toby Huss. The film was financed by Maybe This Year Productions and produced by MTY Productions in association with Fortress Features.
The story centers Kern’s character getting dumped by his cheating fiancée for Schreiber’s character and going ahead with his bachelor party up at Big Bear Lake thanks to the urging of his three best friends (Brody, Labine, and Knighton). Things take a turn for the worse the next morning when he discovers Schreiber’s character has been kidnapped by his friends and tied up in the basement.
Despite the very hard-working efforts of its cast, this basic comedy of cruelty never takes off, due to the tiredness of its premise—boys behaving badly again?—and increasingly farfetched plotting, culminating in an actual and quite ridiculous face-off between Joe and a grizzly bear. Schreiber, who’s done some impressive New York stage work, comes off as the most sympathetic character and you can’t really blame Joe’s erstwhile lady for running off with him, if only to escape his idiotically immature friends. But, as this so-called villain hasn’t really done anything villainous or even particularly obnoxious, there’s no sense of justified payback in his mistreatment, and Joe & Co. merely come off as mindlessly brutal thugs.
According to one report, one particularly graphic scene shows the hunter crushing a bird in his hand. Because both the pace and storytelling style are different from the usual U.S. fare, it may take a few moments for viewers to adapt to the movie's rhythms, but it's worth the effort. Strong but subtle messages are delivered; relationships are relatable and shaded; and the animation is innovative and beautifully executed. (Spoiler alert: Several valiant characters momentarily appear to be dead, and the villain is killed.)
Debuting director Kern keeps things moving at a brisk clip, which is about the most that can be said for his helming. But, for anyone with any kind of sensibility, the film gives itself away in a noxious manner early on. When it’s suggested that Joe punch his ruthlessly subdued rival in the face like a hundred times, he protests, mentioning the cops. His buddies scoff, smugly crowing that no cop would ever, ever not sympathize with him, being the dumped dude just hours before his wedding. “Yeah,” you can’t help thinking, “imagine if you weren’t all white.”
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