Skip to main content
The Independent Critic

University of Wisconsin Mascot "Bucky" and the students who bring him to life
Scott Smith
85 Mins.
Fulton Market Films

 "Being Bucky" Review 
Add to favorites
When you are Bucky, you are forbidden to tell anyone. You do not get paid. You do it for the privilege of upholding a time-honored tradition. The hours are long, the uniform often disoriented and the head of Bucky can be downright smelly.

"Being Bucky" is a feature documentary that follows the lives of the students who play Bucky Badger during the 2007-2008 school year at University of Wisconsin-Madison. A winner of the Audience Award at the Wisconsin Film Fest and an Official Selection of the 2009 Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis, "Being Bucky" starts with auditions, winds its way through multiple special events, traverses into the sports seasons and, finally, winds its way down at the end of the year as a year of being Bucky ends for some students and tryouts begin for another group of eager Badgers.

It's likely not surprising that "Being Bucky" would be an audience fave at the Wisconsin Film Festival, being that the film is very much an affectionate portrait of one of University of Wisconsin's most beloved traditions. While it's doubtful that "Being Bucky" would have near the attraction outside Wisconsin, director Scott Smith's documentary is a frequently entertaining and funny film that captures the pros and cons of being a major university mascot.

Smith, a Madison native, comes to the table with an obvious affection for his subject, however, this doesn't stop him from presenting "Being Bucky" with a tongue-in-cheek realism as he follows the lives of those who audition and those who end up in the season-long role of Bucky. While it's advertised that those who play Bucky are forbidden to tell, we quickly learn that it's seldom a true secret for Badger fans as nearly everyone who is followed during the 2007-2008 school year is fairly quickly revealed in their role.

What Smith does nicely is reveal the athleticism, discipline and extensive work that goes into being Bucky. While one might be tempted to simply chalk up a mascot as simply a hyper-enthusiastic cheerleader with fur, such a description would be inaccurate with such scenes as national competitions, conferences, trainings, special events and more showing off just how important being a mascot is to nearly every major university.

While "Being Bucky" certainly does entertain, at 85 minutes the film starts to feel a touch long about the midway point mostly owing to it occasionally feeling like a "best of" American Idol exhibition crossed with "So You Think You Can Dance." While it would be difficult to get to know all of the young men, and in the 2007-2008 school year all the individuals playing Bucky were male, in "Being Bucky" too often the mascot antics are at the forefront and the men who bring him to life play second fiddle to such a degree that they are virtually interchangeable with only a couple mild exceptions.

For more information about "Being Bucky" or to pick up the DVD, visit the film's website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic