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Teddy Bear

Pic is an offbeat character study about a bodybuilder whose shyness leads him to look for an arranged bride in Thailand.

Cast:
With: Kim Kold, Elsebeth Steentoft, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard, David Winters, Sukunya Mongkol, Jonathan Winters, Allan Mogensen, Sukianya Suwan, Barbara Zatler, Songporn Na Bangchang, Paweena Im-Erb, Prap Poramabhuti. (Danish, English dialogue)

Expanding upon Mads Matthiesen’s 2007 short “Dennis” — but perhaps not quite enough — the writer-helmer’s debut feature “Teddy Bear” is an offbeat character study about an enormous Danish bodybuilder whose painful shyness leads him to look for an arranged bride in Thailand. The low-key drama is well crafted and likable as far as it goes, but there’s not enough narrative impetus or depth to maintain more than passing viewer interest. Surface novelty will attract some sales, though prospects are modest.

Dennis (international bodybuilder Kim Kold) lives just outside Copenhagen with his elderly but controlling mother (Elsebeth Steentoft, both actors reprising from the short). When a relative weds a Thai woman, Dennis decides to try the same route. Arriving in Pattaya City, however, he finds everyone assumes he’s a sex tourist, resulting in embarrassing “dates” designed to be strictly of a transactional nature.

Escaping yet another such awkward situation, he finds a local gym to work out in, and in its widowed proprietress Toi (Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard) a gracious guide to local sights. Despite his social haplessness, romantic embers begin to glow. Bringing her home to mother, however, won’t be easy.

Matthiesen essays minimalist, impressionistic storytelling, but even this bare-bones plot requires major suspension of disbelief: that Dennis has no female admirers despite his competitive success, or that Toi would leave her life and country practically overnight for this tight-lipped stranger.

Naturally, Kold is an imposing physical presence — literally heightened by the casting of much shorter actors opposite him — albeit not yet an actor expressive enough to fill the script’s hazy psychological gaps by himself. Supporting thesps, except for Steentoft, are well-handled non-pros.

The result is moderately engaging but also a bit pokey and underwhelming, with little to say in the end beyond “incredible hulks have feelings, too.” Nor do the competent design elements contribute much oomph. Original Danish title translates as “Ten Hours to Paradise.”

Teddy Bear

Denmark

Production: An SF Film and Beofilm presentation. (International sales: Visit Films, New York.) Produced by Morten Kjems Juhl. Executive producers, Birgitte Skov, Karoline Leth, Morten Fredericksen, Michael Fleischer. Directed by Mads Matthiesen. Screenplay, Matthiesen, Martin Zandvliet.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Laust Trier Mork; editor, Adam Nielsen; music, Sune Martin; production designer, Thomas Bremer; costume designers, Rebekka Leve, Pong Somprasertsuk; sound (Dolby Digital), Peter Albrechtsen. Reviewed at Sundance Festival (World Cinema -- competing), Jan. 22, 2012. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Kim Kold, Elsebeth Steentoft, Lamaiporn Sangmanee Hougaard, David Winters, Sukunya Mongkol, Jonathan Winters, Allan Mogensen, Sukianya Suwan, Barbara Zatler, Songporn Na Bangchang, Paweena Im-Erb, Prap Poramabhuti. (Danish, English dialogue)

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