I am a long-time fan of the Film Movement DVD library of foreign and indie movies, and earlier this year I finally entered a subscription to the monthly releases. This is the most recent (August, 2012) release.
"Teddy Bear" (2011 release from Denmark; 96 min.) brings the story of Dennis, a 38 yr. professional body-builder looking for the right girl. Any girl for that matter who will just take a liking to him. The movie opens with Dennis on a date with a girl, and it's just a terrible date. Soon after we learn that Dennis still lives with his mom, who disapproves of any forays by Dennis in the dating scene (Dennis had to lie about even being that bad date). Mom and Dennis attend a wedding ceremony of Mom's brother with a girl from Thailand whom he met there and then moved her to Denmark. Dennis, desparate at this point, agrees to take a vacation to Thailand (without Mom knowing, of course). All of this develops in the first 30 min. of the movie. To give more away from the plot would ruin your viewing experience. But let me assure you, you will be surprised by the twist and turns in the last hour of the movie.
In all, this is a great "family drama" and props to Kim Kold as Dennis, who give a masterful performance. But wait, there is more! The DVD comes with 2 additional features from director Mads Matthiesen. First there is the equally excellent 26 min. family drama "Cathrine" (a young girl dating an older guy, despite the disapproval of her controlling parents). And to top it off there is also the 15 min. "Dennis", which was the original shortie from which the feature developed (but with different actors and story line). If you like a quality foreign movie, "Teddy Bear" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
on April 21, 2013
The idea of a bodybuilder who's never had a girlfriend searching for love could almost sound like a farcical sex comedy on the surface. However, Teddy Bearis anything but that. The film, starring real life bodybuilder Kim Kold as Dennis, a 38 year old single bodybuilder who lives at home with his controlling mother is as serious and genuine as you can get.
Dennis is tired of still feeling like a child at home. He tries his hand at the dating scene, where he needs to lie to his mother who he knows wouldn't approve of him dating, but never has any success. While attending the wedding of his uncle, he sees there love and wants to obtain what they have. His uncle eventually talks him into visiting Thailand, where he met his wife, explaining to him how it's easier to be social and find love in the foreign land.
When Dennis leaves Denmark and arrives in Thailand, after lying to his mother about where he is going of course, it's not quite what he had imagined based on his uncle's stories. He draws attention everywhere he goes, likely due mostly to his size, and finds that the Thai women are too forward (and often come with a price tag). He's about to give up hope on this venture as well, until he decides to work out at the local gym. There he meets a new friend, an aspiring bodybuilder and becomes attracted to the gym's owner, Toi.
Dennis knows what he feels for Toi is different than anything he's felt before, but his lack of experience or knowledge of the Thai customs put a few obstacles in his way. The drama of Dennis falling in love, facing his fears and dealing with his mother play out with sincerity and a realism that make you forget Dennis is a bodybuilder. We realize that he is a person with his own struggles, just like the rest of us.
This film really surprised me. What could have easily been exploitative and a gimmicky comedy, the movie sticks to the story to be a heartfelt drama with a non-conventional main character. The story itself is fairly straightforward, but it's the character of Dennis that really make the movie stand out. He's a testament that you can't judge a book by its cover. Someone who would seem like guy with confidence and fearlessness could really end up being a shy, introverted guy.
Kim Kold really steals the show. Not only does he look the part, but he makes us believe he knows Dennis well. As a man of few words, Dennis speaks mostly through facial expressions. Kold manages to convey everything through his looks and reactions. He really does seem like a big teddy bear, especially when he shows a little grin here and there, which is one of the small characteristics that make us truly feel something for Dennis, and not just look at him as a spectacle.
Source: criticnic.com 14 March 2013
Disclosure: Film sent by Film Movement
on January 31, 2016
I watched the short-film, "Dennis" on YouTube which is popular among weight-lifting and body-building circles. Despite intimidating features, many body-builders are often introverted as seen portrayed in the film. I was excited to know that the somewhat sequel to the short-film is available on Amazon Prime. "Teddy Bear" delivers the same pacing and setting.
Kim Kold is an amazing actor. His performance was heartfelt and thoughtful. The actions and decisions made by the main character speak of character flaws that are understandable, because of the way the storytelling delivered the character traits. The way the film told the story was very well put together. There was no hand-holding or presenting. Elements in the film were simply laid out in front of the viewer to be judged. As people in the creative trades are told, "Show the viewer, don't tell the viewer." This film is a great example of showing the viewer the kind of life Dennis lives. The actor for the mother, Elsebeth Steentoft was also a great one. The character she portrayed was also incredibly flawed and hate-able in many ways, yet she showed a great amount of vulnerability that invokes pity. Her character may especially resonate for anyone who has a smothering parent.
I wouldn't say this is a film that someone watches in order to feel good. The film is intentionally uncomfortable throughout. I can really feel the depression and hopelessness in the daily life of the main character, and the awkwardness in some of the situations in which he finds himself. All-in-all, a very thoughtful piece. This movie makes a case for anyone who looks scary on the outside but is actually a .."Teddy Bear" on the inside.
on March 17, 2013
Kim Kold gives a stirring performance as the body builder, Dennis Petersen, whose emotional development has been stymied by his overly possessive mother. After watching awful acting by Arnold in trash cinema over the years, it is refreshing to see a body builder who can actually act.
on December 15, 2013
This review may contain spoilers.
This Danish movie is the extension of a short film by director Mads Matthiesen called "Dennis", about a pathologically shy, nearly middle-aged bodybuilder who lives with his suffocating mother and desperately longs to find a woman to love and build a life with. Not much happens in "Dennis" - when he manages to sneak out to go on a date with a gregarious party girl who wants him to play male stripper for her friends, timid Dennis gets embarrassed and hurt and goes home to sleep in the same bed as his mom. This sparse setup made for a surprisingly engrossing story, and both Matthiesen and internet audiences wanted to see more of Dennis and what ends up happening to him.
The reasons that both Dennis and Teddy Bear work are twofold. First, Dennis' story struck a sympathetic chord with lonely internet viewers - lonely guys who identify with Dennis, lonely girls who'd love to have a Dennis in their life. Secondly, and most importantly, Matthiesen found a perfect vessel for Dennis in the form of Kim Kold, the actor who plays him. Kold, a massive 300-pound professional bodybuilder and fan favorite known for a dazzling smile and extroverted personality, dials it way, way down to play the sometimes frustratingly taciturn Dennis. Everybody here dials it down, actually - at times as Kold sits across a table from Elespeth Steenthoft, the tiny, sharp-faced actress who plays his mother, you get the feeling that the two actors are engaged in a contest to see who can turn in the most minimalist performance. But since most of the important action and interaction in the film takes places in the silences between what's actually said, that works just fine.
Teddy Bear begins with a cold open that clues us in to the spare plot in the first thirty seconds: Dennis is on a terrible, uncomfortable date with a woman who looks kind of like Laura Dern. She picks at her food, stares blankly, and accuses Dennis of staring at her boobs. As in the original short, Dennis returns home to his mother, who chides him for having been out so late. We are quickly made aware that Dennis has lied about his whereabouts, as in the original short, because he has to actively hide his attempts at interacting with women from her. We're not given a full explanation of why it is a given of Dennis' existence that he serve his mother and forego a sex life; we only see the pain, bitterness and reproach that pass between mother and son each time she reminds him, "You're just like your father." We're never told if Father abandoned the family, cheated, or just died - he's just not around and apparently never has been.
When Dennis' uncle marries a pretty young woman he met in Thailand, Dennis furtively arranges a trip of his own behind Mom's back to see if he, too, can find love with a Thai woman. When he arrives in Thailand and realizes that his uncle had actually met his wife through sex tourism, Dennis is taken aback and only retreats further into himself. It strains credulity to think that a 38-year-old man would be as naive as Dennis apparently is, but it fits with his excessively sheltered home life. Soon he finds himself fending off the very women he had come to meet, dodging their attempts to get him to take his shirt off or give him a handy in the mens' room. To escape the discomfort, Dennis seeks out the one environment where there's ever any indication that he's happy - a gym. He discovers that not only is he known and appreciated as a bodybuilder by the Thai gym rats, but that the gym is run by a lonely, attractive widow, Toi. Despite the spare emotional landscape created by Matthiesen and his actors, the audience cheers when Dennis snatches victory from the jaws of defeat and successfully, if awkwardly, woos Toi back to Denmark.
The final third of the film, where Dennis has to walk a line between the two women in his life and clumsily attempt to hide Toi's presence from his mother, is where an American movie would pile on mishap after comic mishap as Dennis' lies bite him spectacularly in the ass and hijinks ensue. Luckily, this is not an American movie, and Matthiesen shows this situation for the quiet tragedy that it would be in real life. The cruelest lies we tell in life are the most well-meant ones, and when it's discovered Dennis' dishonesty leads to more sadness and betrayal all around. That's not to say that we're not given the happy ending we all want for Dennis - sort of.
This one gets four stars not because it was necessarily a great movie - it's not. I mean, it's good, but it is extremely slow-moving and taciturn to a fault. Teddy Bear succeeds as an antidote to the bitter brashness and glib cliches of a lot of the other stuff I've reviewed here. Compare Teddy Bear's spare, dignified approach to loneliness and a longing for human connection to, say, the self-centered wish-fulfillment fantasies and histrionics of the two Eric Schaeffer films I've reviewed here, or the fluffy, silly camp of Preaching to the Perverted. Sometimes less is truly more.
We happened upon writer/director Mads Matthiesen's 'Teddy Bear' as part of the 'Film Movement' series. Of the five films from the series that we've watched recently, this one was the stand-out. Real-life bodybuilder turned not-so-bad-at-all actor, Kim Kold, portrays Dennis, looking for long-term love after an increasingly lonely life of gyms and life with Mom. To say Mom is a bit overbearing doesn't come close. The movie's artful juxtaposition is of the hulking, immense physical presence of Dennis vs. his infantilization at the hands of his mother.
After watching the 'success' of an uncle in plucking a bride from Thailand, Dennis furtively sets off to do the same. Matthiesen's sharp eye does great work there capturing the jarring size difference of Dennis vs the slight Thais. The best scene: Dennis, resplendent in new custom sports coat (jauntily paired with shorts) walks down a nightlife district with girls one-third his size throwing themselves at him on offer. There's another scene or two capturing the louche debauchery of the westerner's 'sex holiday.'
Our man Dennis will have none of the that. He's clearly uncomfortable with the scene. You root for him. Ultimately, he finds his prize in the place he feels most at home: the gym. Toi (Lamaiporn Hougaard), the object of Dennis' bashful attention, is winning in her low-key ways. A nice match for Dennis.
Things get excruciating for everyone (including the viewer) when Toi lands in Denmark. Dennis hasn't come clean with his mother on his trip and its outcome. Something's got to give. It's compelling viewing to watch it all come out.
Newcomer Hougaard is wonderful here - a Thai immigrant living in Denmark, Matthiesen plucked her off the street for the role. She's got a nice, natural presence on the screen.
on October 17, 2015
Would have given this 4 stars, but the relationship between Dennis & Toi needed to be developed a lot more. The actress who plays Toi has the kind of eyes that can speak volumes, but we still needed more dialogue & development between them - especially given the stoic nature of Dennis. I liked the movie, though. I felt for the guy. Go ahead and watch it - it's definitely worth the time.
on March 11, 2013
I'd never heard of Teddy Bear until a friend of mine mentioned it a few weeks ago, and after reading the plot summary, it sounded like something worth watching. I finally got around to watching it a little bit ago, and sure enough, the movie was great. I haven't seen many good ones this year so far, but Teddy Bear is already at the top of my list. Anyone who says that big muscle-bound dudes like wrestlers and bodybuilders can't act needs to give this movie a go, because Kim Kold, while not exactly giving Daniel Day-Lewis a run for his money, can tell you exactly what he's feeling with just a facial expression and no words are needed. Teddy Bear is a surprisingly emotional movie that I'll be remembering for years to come.
Dennis is a 38 year old bodybuilder who still lives at home with his mom. We first meet him in the middle of a date, which isn't going well at all. He's 300 pounds of pure muscle, but can't start a conversation to save his life, and the date just gets worse and worse. His relationship with his mother is slightly better- the two love eachother very much, yet Dennis is still controlled by her in some ways, and has to lie about things she may not approve of. Rather than telling her he went on a date, Dennis tells his mom that he saw a movie with one of his friends. After a dinner with his uncle, who just married a gorgeous woman from Thailand, Dennis wonders if it's easier to find love overseas. His uncle isn't exactly a good looking guy, and his wife looks like a certain kind of lady you'd find after-hours, so surely a huge, gentle guy will luck out too, right? He arrives in Thailand (lying to his mother, saying that he's going to Germany for a bodybuilding competition) and finds out from the guy that set up his uncle, that yeah, they're *ahem* ladies of the night. Dennis still has trouble talking to women, even when they're all over him, and it seems like the gentle giant might have made a bad choice.
There's a lot more that happens, and Dennis' first date in Thailand is just the beginning. But I don't want to ruin the fun that takes place soon after. This movie is so different from what I was expecting, and I appreciated that. The story is the kind of thing that could've turned very typical, with Dennis coming to the rescue of one of the ladies, some big dramatic argument with his mother over how she controls him, and more things like that. And yet, none of these things happened! Teddy Bear is a cute movie from beginning to end, and apart from some slight language, could easily be rated PG. It has some funny sight gags and subtle humor as well. Seeing Dennis tower over the majority of the people in Thailand is a sight in itself, especially when you realize that he's "just" 6'4". When he's spotted out shopping in the mall by his mother later on, you can't help but feel sorry for the guy because you know something's about to go down after the promise he'd just made her.
I especially liked the segments between Dennis and another bodybuilder in a Thai gym who instantly recognizes him, showing Dennis some newspaper clippings that he saved from a competition Dennis won. The two bond after this moment and it warms your heart a little. There were so many times I laughed to myself or smiled because of how cute the moments were. It's easy to see why the movie is titled Teddy Bear! He may not be a deep character, but I really liked the character of Dennis and wanted him to finally meet a nice girl in the end, and never wanted anything bad to happen to him. The movie also does a good job of showing off the city life of Thailand while also showing some scenic beauty.
Teddy Bear is a wonderful, quick film that I'll be sure to recommend to people and especially couples. I checked his profile and it looks like Kold will be in the next Fast and the Furious movie. Somehow, I don't think he'll be playing a character like Dennis there, but it sure as heck would be cool if he does.
on October 8, 2015
I thought this was a relatively entertaining independent film. The acting and direction was very good. I did not fall asleep and saw the whole movie in one seating. It is a foreign film and I was intrigued that everyone in the world is really the same as I expected. The scenery was shot well too.
on March 26, 2013
I like (good) foreign films, and don't see too many from Denmark. If I have plenty of time, I like "quiet" movies; but if I'm feeling stressed, I frankly don't have the patience for that type of film. This movie was an exception! Rarely have I seen a "quiet" movie that completely captured my attention like Teddy Bear did. The ideas were interesting, Thailand was extremely realistic, and the guy can portray so much emotion with so few words that both my husband and I were impressed. Conclusion: unless you hate subtitles, I'd highly recommend this! =)