The annual secret gatherings of the rich & powerful Caucasian males at the Bohemian Grove have the mystique of an urban legend: The National Enquirer, which eagerly publishes dirt extracted from dust bins & regularly runs embarrassing photographs of celebrity trysts & chemical sprees, honorably respects the privacy of all those world leaders doing silly things in the woods together. "The Teddy Bears Picnic" represents Harry Shearer's satirical musings on the Grove. He's in it, naturally, & so are Henry Gibson; Howard Hesseman, Kenneth Mars, Michael McKean, Ming-Na, Morgan Fairchild, Joyce Hyser, David Rasche, Alan Thicke, Peter Marshall, Kurtwood Smith, George Wendt & Fred Willard, but not, alas, Christopher Guest or Eugene Levy, who consistently deliver the best comedy parodies in the world.
The key, of course, is a funny script: this movie doesn't have one. Most of the stuff we laugh at is triggered by our identification with people & situations we've experienced ourselves. With "Teddy Bears Picnic," characters come & go, (a general here, a senator there) but we don't know who they're meant to satirize & their material isn't sharp enough to elicit chuckles simply through the sheer force of their personalities. At some point, my mind started drifting to the banal chatter of Hitler & his cronies revealed by Eva Braun's color home movies at Berchtesgarten, or even more recently, to Bin Laden & his fawning admirers laughing at the terrible events of September 11. Maybe these fat cats think they're hysterically witty~ but it's hard to appreciate the humor in a frat house pageant when you know its scary participants are going right back to their scary jobs. There's no way to make any of these guys funny, unless you go for the jugular & Shearer's script doesn't do that. Moreover, it's shot on upgraded high definition video, which may be easy on film budgets, but, after 80 minutes, not so easy on the eyes. After hearing the concept of "Teddy Bears Picnic" I couldn't wait to see it, now I can't wait to forget it so I can enjoy Harry Shearer & his friends in funnier stuff.
© 2002 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 3/28/02
Teddy Bears' Picnic
USA - 2002