Bear City 2:
The Proposal


Douglas Langway

Joe Conti,
Gerald McCullouch,
Stephen Guarino,
Brian Keane,
Gregory Gunter,
James Martinez,
Alex Di Dio,
Kathy Najimy,
Aaron Tone,
Richard Riehle

Unrated, 112 minutes

The Bears Are Back In Town
by Michael D. Klemm
Posted online January, 2013

bear city 2

Sequels are a mixed bag. There are the occasional sequels that surpass the original (The Godfather, Part 2), and some that are sequels to films that should have never been made in the first place (Deuce Bigelow European Gigolo). A good sequel should build on the original, deepen the characters, and reward the audience for coming back for more. Bear City 2: The Proposal accomplishes most of this, but in varying degrees.

michael and carlos bear city 22010’s Bear City was a pleasant diversion from the usual queer faire. Bear culture was featured front and center, rather than being relegated to background color. With no signs of manscaping, we met bears of all shapes, sizes and temperaments. There were muscle bears, chubbies and their chasers. One man’s girth was celebrated rather than mocked. The script explored many issues and an appealing cast brought all of it to life. There was humor, there was drama. It was Queer as Folk without the abs.

tyler and roger bear city 2When last we saw young newbie Tyler (Joe Conti), he had landed Roger (Gerald McCullouch), the silver daddy of his dreams. Meanwhile, Michael (Gregory Gunter) chose not to have the gastric bypass surgery that was freaking out his lover, Carlos (James Martinez), and Fred (Brian Keane) and Bret (Stephen Guarino) decided that they didn’t need a threeway to spice up their relationship after all.

bear city 2They’re all back for writer/director Douglas Langway’s follow-up, Bear City 2: The Proposal. Tyler seems a little hunkier this time around and has lost most vestiges of twinkdom. In fact, many of the characters have newfound glamour; if not in looks then in their state of affairs. Michael was a pathetic sad sack in the first film, unemployed with no self esteem. Now he is a successful theatre producer. Carlos is opening a gay bar called Boxers, and Fred has graduated from freelancing as a cameraman to making his own film. A running joke finds his partner Bret saying repeatedly, “it’s just what the world needs, another bear documentary.”

bear city 2Roger has proposed to Tyler and they’re all spending Bear Week together in Provincetown for the bachelor parties and wedding. They’re staying at a cottage (or a small B&B, I’m not sure) that belongs to Bret’s mom. She’s played by Kathy Najimy and she’s a bubbly den mother, ala Sharon Gless on QAF. She's fun but grates on your nerves after awhile. The young groom’s befuddled parents are also there; Tyler’s father (Richard Riehle) keeps asking why everyone is calling him “daddy.” Tyler’s club kid best friend Simon (Alex Di Dio) is also along again for the fabulous factor. Everyone dotes on the two grooms.

bret and fred bear city 2When gay marriage was legalized here in New York State, many longtime couples (including my husband and I) got married, while others saw no need. An older gay friend wondered if it was a polite question to ask a couple if they were getting married. His question was valid, because asking could be quite the faux pas depending on the couple’s politics. Many have asked if we should get married just because we can, and it was nice to see this theme explored in detail in Bear City 2. Bret wants to wed, Fred needs a better reason besides the fact that we can now. Or is it just commitment issues?

roger, tyler bear city 2

Central to all of this is, of course, Tyler and Roger’s upcoming nuptials. This is the film’s anchor, but do we really believe that these guys want to get married? Those who saw the first film know that Roger was an attention-deficit lothario ruled by his dick, but that didn’t stop Tyler from pursuing and finally landing his man. In Bear City 2 it is Roger who proposes, and Tyler who freaks out because he’s not ready. And then, so we can still have a movie, he changes his mind overnight. Although it sets the stage for some nice soul searching later, Tyler’s character is all over the place during the opening scenes.

Nate bear city 2There needs to be drama. Tyler is clearly restless and Roger senses it. Enter a bearded muscle bear stud (chest out, eyes forward, walking to pulsing music) whose name is Nate (Aaron Tone). He’s Roger’s ex, and his first love, and he has nothing but eyes for the groom. Nate throws Roger’s bachelor party. Will his presence threaten the wedding? Will Roger behave? Is this on Tyler’s mind when he (literally) keeps bumping into an older bear named Big Dan? Tyler doesn’t seem to mind at all when Big Dan flirts openly with him.

big dan tyler bear city 2Bear City 2 is also an ensemble film, and the subplots provide additional color and comic relief. Michael and Carlos, especially Michael, are always on their cellphones (“Oh baby, I’m sorry, I have to take this”) and the choreography of their overlapping phone conversations is excellent. The funniest bit was when the man financing Fred’s film forces him to use his boyfriend as a “host” on the bear documentary. Sasha Baron Cohen’s Bruno is less obnoxious than this “host,” and he pisses off or scares away everyone he tries to interview. Look for the brilliant moment when Bret uses a cupcake as an analogy for what that man is doing to Fred’s film. Brian Keane and The Big Gay Sketch Show’s Stephen Guarino are terrific again as Fred and Bret. As in the first Bear City, they steal the movie. They make a very believable couple, and their natural comic timing is sublime. If there is a Bear City 3, it should be centered on them.

bear city 2I enjoyed most of Bear City 2, especially the cast, but found it lacking in spots too. The film gets a few points for not ending the way I expected it to, but I still think it layers on the schmaltz and ties all the plot threads into way too neat of a bow. I thought about the cutting room floor a few times. While the film has many charms, it is too long. Several scenes are expendable, especially that annoying speeded-up cooking scene. I could have done without the dance floor brawl in the soap suds too. Bad background music and incidental songs pad out the film’s length. While including the local scenery (that includes the population) is important and desirable, after awhile all the repeat overhead shots of the long swimming pool made the film look a bit like that banal travelogue show that Charlie David once hosted on LOGO.

bear city 2Bear City 2 gets a little carried away with cameos too, but that comes with the production of this film being such a family affair. Still, there’s something for everyone and [for me] the best – and totally unexpected – cameo is by none other than filmmaker Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy, Dogma, Clerks) as one of Michael’s bear friends. Smith, who is straight, asks who he has to blow to get tickets to opening night of his show. (Smith, by the way, makes a good bear.)

bear city 2If you Google Bear City 2, most of the search results will mention somewhere that this is “Sex in the City with bears.” The age of the sound byte has so dumbed down film criticism, but if that analogy makes you want to see the film, go for it. In spite of its flaws, the movie features bears instead of club twinks or vampires, and that’s reason enough to see it. The talented cast makes most of it work.


More on Douglas Langway:
Bear City

Joe Conti, Gerald McCullouch, Stephen Guarino, Brian Keane, Gregory Gunter, James Martinez,Alex Di Dio also appear in:
Bear City

Brian Keane also appears in:

Stephen Guarino also appears in:
An Englishman In New York

Richard Riehle also appears in:
The Fluffer
Mysterious Skin
Choose Connor
The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life Of Ethan Green