Bernard (voiced by Kim Tae-gyoon-II) is a polar bear who you might or might recognize from short cartoons (as in, three minutes long) wherein he attempts to solve some sort of simple goal. He would, say, exercise at the gym or ride an airplane or get a bird off the TV antenna, and proceed to fail in increasingly comical slapstick ways while communicating only in goofy grunts. “Super Bernard: Spy Adventures” takes this character, and puts him in the action spy format for feature length.
At first blush this sounds like a perfectly decent idea. Where the problems arise is that “Super Bernard: Spy Adventures” puts way, way too much emphasis on its fairly disturbing story. We first see Bernard as a baby at the North Pole with his mother, then they stumble upon an elaborate dynamite display (!), resulting in the apparent death of Bernard’s mother (!!), then Jessica (voiced by Choe Jeonghyeon) takes Bernard home as a pet (!!!), puts him to work as a janitor at a spy agency (!!!!), and then polar bear terrorists threaten to destroy the entire planet (!!!!!).
This is pretty morbid stuff. We explicitly see those bombs kill people. I mean, there’s not blood or anything but really, the fact that “Super Bernard: Spy Adventures” can be so incredibly nonchalant about massive death and destruction is more than a little disturbing. It especially doesn’t help that, considering how humans apparently dynamited the North Pole and killed Bernard’s mother for reasons that are never explained, the polar bear terrorists inadvertently come off as surprisingly sympathetic.
All right all right so maybe I am overthinking this children’s cartoon just a tad, but the main reason why I’m having such dark thoughts here is because “Super Bernard: Spy Adventures” spends far more time on the story than it does on the actual gags which I was expecting to see. If you’ve ever seen a Bernard cartoon (just YouTube it to get an idea what I’m referring to), the humor is always based on simple action and reaction. They’re funny because Bernard’s generally sensible solutions always conspire to make his situation worse somehow.
There’s no similar sense of basic logic in “Super Bernard: Spy Adventures”. Characters in this movie frequently appear to teleport at will. Editing will hide the fact that they’re constantly getting out of completely impossible traps without explanation. Someone will leave in a rocket ship, and then another character will notice this, take another rocket ship out, and somehow manage to catch up with them. This kills almost all the tension in any given scene.
In all fairness, I was horrified enough by the gruesome, unexplained premises of “Super Bernard: Spy Adventures” that I never felt much tension to begin with. Bernard really just does not work at all as a character who’s supposed to be at the centerpoint of dramatic pathos. Grief isn’t really an emotion that can be communicated with the confused frustrated grunts that are his main character trademark.
Review by William Schwartz
“Super Bernard: Spy Adventures” is directed by Lim Ah-ro and voiced by Kim Tae-gyoon-II, Choe Jeonghyeon, Choi Nak-yoon, Nam Doh-hyeong, Yun Yong-sik and Kim Seong-yeon-I.
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Super Bernard: Spy Adventures