The Berenstain Bears’ Comic Valentine (1982)

Bear Country Cousins versus the Beartown Bullies for all the marbles! Hot shot local talent and slap shot sexpot Brother Bear leads his team against the heavily favored big city goons (they all have a missing front tooth so they must be goons, right?) anchored by the hulking boogeyman of a goalie whose surely hideous visage is hidden beneath a fearsome hockey mask! The stage is set for a polar vortex Valentine’s Day Massacre!

But it isn’t just his almost guaranteed death by high sticking (or worse – an embarrassing loss that all but guarantees he’ll have to spend Valentine’s Day not with the hotsy totsy snow bunny Charlene, but with the ultimate goons – his family! ) that has Brother Bear nervously needing to change his hockey pads! There’s also the mysterious valentines that he’s been receiving from an unknown sender calling him or herself “Honey Bear”! And who was that lurking just out of sight watching Brother Bear that only an owl saw?

A brilliant set up for a My Bloody Valentine-style slasher flick, turns out to be a typically lame set up for a Berenstain Bears TV special whose songs about love will actually give you worse nightmares than any expertly staged kill could ever hope to do. (Mama Bear singing about the everyday aspect of true love in particular will make you wish a miner with a pick axe and a hard on for Valentine’s Day will just put you out of your misery already.)

An equally terrifying subplot featuring Sister Bear trying to play Cupid for the giant bear Bigpaw (no longer seen as a monster following his heroic deeds in the otherwise rancid Thanksgiving stuffing that was The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw) only makes the viewer involuntarily imagine what sort of grotesque creature could possibly hope to date the big bruin.

The big game finally arrives and Brother Bear is ready to fall apart like so much delicate lace decorating one of those fancy valentines he’s been focused on instead of keeping his head in the game. Only when he sees Charlene repulsed by his taking a dump on hockey’s biggest stage (let’s be honest – normal people care so little about hockey that this game has pretty much the same impact as a real life Stanely Cup Final) does he get fired up and tie the game, before finally winning it with a lucky shot.

But like any great horror movie, The Berenstain Bears’ Comic Valentine pulls out the old shock ending on us and reveals the real killer, I mean secret admirer, was none other that the opposing goalie who was a gigantic girl bear! (The cynically inclined will wonder if the integrity of the game was compromised by a lovesick gal who let her boytoy win.)

A final tacky tacked-on twist sees an even bigger sister of the goalie, Big Bertha, appear. Sister Bear immediately jumps into matchmaking mode and introduces her to Bigpaw. A true gross out moment as an Amazonian bear makes a love connection with a bear suffering a severe bout gigantism. If you signed up for a megafauna make out session raise your hand.

As the Berenstain Bears march with grim determination through the easy paydays of holiday animated specials, it becomes increasingly clear that unlike a property like Peanuts, something was lost in the translation to TV.

The insistence on padding 25 minute episodes with a steady stream of detestable ditties that serve only as bathroom and/or snack breaks, a distracting narrator pointlessly over-explaining the simplistic action occurring, the lazy portrayal of Papa Bear as a lower functioning doof and the choice of questionable plot elements (Hockey? Really? Did anyone tell them this was going to be shown outside of Montreal?) are tiresome, even for someone who loved The Bear Scouts and Bears in the Night as a child. Perhaps inadvertently confessing my fetish for being punished, next up on the holiday calendar is The Berenstain Bears’ Easter Surprise.

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