You could take children of any age to "The Care Bears Movie" without fear of nudity, violence, profanity or sexual situations. Then again, you could save your money and just let them watch the usual Saturday morning trash, from which the movie differs not a whit.
Reversing the typical marketing pattern, the Care Bears began as characters on greeting cards, then became dolls before appearing, in animated form, on television and now in a movie. In "The Care Bears Movie," the story of their adventures is related by Mr. Cherrywood (the voice of Mickey Rooney), who tells it as a bedtime story to his charges at the orphanage. According to Cherrywood, the ursine band is on a "special mission -- to have everyone share their feelings with others."
They're stymied, however, by Nicholas, a magician's assistant who's been seduced by an evil spirit lurking in the pages of his master's book of spells. Nicholas uses incantations to make people nasty. The level on the "caring meter" plunges near zero, threatening the existence of Care-a-Lot, the Care Bears' home in the clouds. So the Bears light out to do battle with the evil spirit.
They have names like Tenderheart Bear and Funshine Bear and Love-a-Lot Bear; and in the Forest of Feelings, they enlist the aid of the Care Bear Cousins -- Brave Heart Lion, Lotsa Heart Elephant, Bright Heart Raccoon and so forth. Of course, they're sure to win Nicholas over, because "magic isn't the answer," but "feelings" are, and after all, "nobody cares like a bear."
Skeptical Heart Movie Critic thinks all this is a lot of baloney. Do we really want to indoctrinate kids with all this Esalen Institute hot-tub hooey about "caring"? It's a tough world out there! Do you think the Japanese show their kids movies like this?
The best cartoons recognize the dark side of kids, their penchant for violence, their fearful fantasies. "The Care Bears Movie" just patronizes them. It even has a child chortling, "Aren't parents great!" Well, they are and they aren't, and kids know that. "The Care Bears Movie" tries to paste a valentine on nastiness and consider it "cured" -- it's a view of evil that even a 5-year-old wouldn't buy. And the animation is as lackluster as the movie's spirit -- it's atrociously ugly, painted in clashing mustard yellows and purples and pool-bottom blues.
But what really sticks in your craw about "The Care Bears Movie" is its bald hypocrisy. Lurking behind all this nattering about "caring" and "feelings" is Cynical Heart American Greetings Corp., which is using the movie as a way to market more Care Bears dolls. "The Care Bears Movie" isn't a bedtime story at all -- it's more of a lulla-buy-buy-buy.
The Care Bears Movie, at area theaters, is rated G.