Boonie Bears: Back to Earth
Director: Huida Lin
Writers: Lin Jiang, Qin Wan and Rachel Xu
Style: Animation/ Family/ Sci-Fi
Time: 97 minutes
Review by Mike Szymanski
How did I not know about the Boonie Bears? Of course, if you don’t have toddler-to-elementary school-aged children, you may not keep up with children’s shows, but the Boonie Bears are going to be an animated team that everyone will get to know about at some point.
They will be as ubiquitous as Dora the Explorer once was, maybe more. They are the Pokemon of the children’s market, and they make a lot more sense to me. It’s a charming cartoon franchise that you may want to watch whether you have kids or not.
The Boonie Bears show is the longest-running and most popular children’s show in China since 2012, with more than 600 episodes and is now being shown in 82 countries.
It has been dubbed into English, Spanish, French, Russian, Tamil and Hindi. In India it’s played on the Big Magic Channel in the Hindi language and called “Bablu Aur Dablu.” The franchise has partnered with Netflix, Sony and Disney, so you know you will be seeing a lot more of these kooky woodland characters.
And this fifth feature film, “Boonie Bears: Back to Earth” already grossed more than $100 million worldwide while the entire series is inching toward $1 billion in ticket sales from enthusiastic audiences.
It’s fantastic animation and also very fun for everyone and has a heavy environmentally-positive message. There are battle scenes and evil characters, but nothing too scary. (It’s not as scary as “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter.”)
The 13-minute TV shows are one form of entertainment, but the Boonie Bears clan is explored much more in their feature-length film. This movie is delightful for the whole family, and certainly for anyone who has cats.
This one features a new character of a cat: a mysterious alien, and we know from “Cats & Dogs” and other films that cats are in fact from outer space and want to dominate the world (if they haven’t already). This cat named Avi can be a cute cuddly kitty with wide innocent eyes to some people, or he can be a monstrous alien in a black suit that wants to take over Earth — as he appears to poor Bramble Bear.
The Boonie Bear brothers Bramble and Briar live in a community on Pine Tree Mountain with an owl, gopher and two monkeys. These are not the honey-sweet characters of Winnie the Pooh. They are wisecracking and sometimes hurtful animated animals who don’t watch out for other creatures’ feelings. Most of them complain about Bramble being a goof-off, always doing things wrong or messing things up.
Bramble tries to do things right, but seems to always bungle things up. He daydreams of becoming a superhero someday.
Then something drops from the sky. It’s a cube-like spaceship with a cat inside who gives Bramble some super-powers.
Instantly, Bramble is reciting mathematical equations and able to add and multiply incredibly long problems. He is an instant genius.
At first, Bramble’s brain can’t take it. “It’s too much mumbo-jumbo inside.” He realizes that the dark scary space cat is dangerous and tries to warn his woodland pals, but they only witness the big-eyed sweet kitty. But that kitty is secretly terrorizing Bramble.
Bramble tries to prove the cat’s evil side by staking him out, disguising himself as a blonde hussy, who does a bit of a Marilyn Monroe pose when a wind pushes his dress up.
There are a pair of bad guys, Mr. and Mrs. Cruz, who are arms dealers and come across as Natasha and Boris Badenov from the “Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.” Some parents may object to some of the slapstick going on between them, especially when Mrs. Cruz persistently pummels her husband’s face and then says, “Nobody hurts my darling except me.” It’s a kind of cringe-worthy laugh line.
Some super-destructive Quasars that will walk the Earth and destroy things are what the Cruz couple want to unleash, and they are coming from Avi the cat. But even Avi knows their dangers and says they cannot control them.
There are heavy save-the-environment messages in this as there are in all the Boonie Bears stories, so there’s always something to talk about in them.
Stay tuned for the funny postcards at the end credits, they are a hoot.
Joseph S. Lambert voices the English version of Bramble this movie and Paul Rosenboom voices the brother Briar. Sara Secora does the voice of Avi.
The film is on digital release in the United States and Canada as of March 2023 and is available on iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Google Play, Redbox Digital, Hoopla and other streaming networks.