Forbes obviously based this film on her own experiences growing up with a bipolar dad (the title comes from something the youngest girl says; she can’t quite remember “bipolar” so at one point, she calls her dad “polar bear”). Unfortunately the script just isn’t very good. The film wants to get into the silly, manic moments of bipolarity, but it doesn’t want to really explore the lows at all; there are moments when the dad loses it and yells at the kids or something of the sort, but Forbes always finds a way to undercut these moments with a joke, like pulling back to reveal that dad is wearing a suit jacket and tie, but no pants, as he’s screaming at his kids on the playground. I found this really troubling actually; it feels to me like the film is painting a pretty sanitized version of mental illness – dad is just kind of wacky in a funny way sometimes and sometimes he yells, but all in all, he’s just a cool dude. Mark Ruffalo plays the dad and whatever moments of truth here are from his performance, not the script; Zoe Saldana isn’t quite up to his level, but she’s solid as the mother. Really, Ruffalo is quite good; he’s always a pleasure to watch and, if he’s not exactly revelatory, this film is a reminder of just how good he is at really inhabiting a character. Ruffalo’s performance makes it hard to get vicious toward the film, even though the script is both weak and kind of morally troubling. It’s not a film I can recommend, but Ruffalo is so good, I can’t really tell you not to see it either. I’m very ambivalent here. Oh, right, also the kids are not good. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – Ruffalo’s central turn as a bipolar father is extremely good; unfortunately the film is too jokey and sanitized to be an effective exploration of mental illness. 2 ½ stars.