Review: Masha and the Bear: to the cinema (2017)

Masha and the Bear: to the cinema (2017)

Directed by: Oleg Kuzovkov | 65 minutes | animation, family | Dutch voice cast: Elaine Hakkaart, Echica Florijn, Boris Kutnevich

Anyone who has a toddler or preschooler at home will undoubtedly know her: Masha. The Russian cartoon heroine first appeared on television in January 2009 and immediately captured the hearts of Russian children. Since then, the animated series has been translated into twenty-five languages ​​and the adventures of ‘Masha and the Bear’ are broadcast in more than a hundred countries. There was even a spin-off, ‘Masha’s Fairytales’, in which Russian folk tales are told. It is said that creator Oleg Kuzovkov was inspired by a real girl, whom he had seen on the beach during a vacation in the 1990s. “The child easily made contact, thanks to her open appearance and resourcefulness. Without hesitation, she approached a stranger to play a game of chess with him. At another she took his flippers and went into the sea with them. That’s nice for a while, but after a few days it turned out to be very tiring and the holidaymakers started to hide from her…”

Masha, who lives in a station house on the edge of a forest, has the same effect on the animals in her environment. She has a pig, goat and dog as pets, but they run away when they get wind of the busy toddler on the way. Why are they so scared? Because Masha always wants to play with them, while the animals seek their rest. It’s not that Masha isn’t sweet, but she’s very present. She’s smart, not shy and a little naughty and eager to discover the world around her. The bear, whose official name is Mishka (which is Russian for “bear”), once worked in a circus and is now trying to enjoy his old age. He likes to do puzzles, reading, fishing and sleeping. He is therefore rightfully the polar opposite of the restless Masha, and that causes the necessary conflicts. That the bear is a good guy is shown by the fact that, despite all the times they clash, he has a heart for Masha and tries to save her from danger. But it is precisely because of his good nature that he is often the victim of Masha’s mischief.

The good-hearted but often unfortunate bear is recognizable to many parents, who want a break now and then instead of always playing and being busy. Perhaps that is why ‘Masha and the Bear’ is also a source of entertainment for many fathers and mothers. Like the bear, the other animals in the forest care too – including two hungry wolves who have found shelter in an old ambulance left in the forest and an equally hungry rabbit with whom the bear occasionally gets into a fight because he steals his roots – for a lot of hilarity. And then there’s the female bear, who has a magical attraction to Mishka, who spontaneously drops everything when she’s around. But he has serious competition from the macho Himalayan bear.

And now there is ‘Masha and the Bear: to the cinema’ (2017), a collection of brand new adventures of the illustrious duo (and therefore not a feature film). For example, we see how Masha rebuilds the old ambulance with the wolves, her niece Dasha comes to visit from the big city, the bear takes Masha on a painting expedition, she plays a computer game with the rabbit, the bear discovers something special under water and Masha takes on the role of SuperMasha. The films always last about seven minutes, just like on television. Somehow it is a pity that there is not a longer, continuous story, but for the young target group this short work is of course much more manageable. The animations are smooth and colorful. Of course it’s not Pixar, but the figures are effective and witty designed. And yes, there is plenty to laugh about here too. The tried and tested concept of the TV format has not changed. So trusted and safe. A full-length film might have been even more fun; maybe for next time? For now, this is a fun and ‘safe’ cinema outing for three and four year olds and their parents.

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