Bears: Film Review

Another typically engaging, vividly shot entry in the successful Disney wildlife series.

Keenly following the scent of African Cats and Chimpanzees, Disneynature’s Bears combines sweeping vistas and remarkably intimate wildlife photography to typically stirring effect as it documents a year in the life of a mother Alaskan brown bear and her two cubs.

Save for some particularly playful narration provided by John C. Reilly, the film, clocking in at a tidy 77 minutes, adheres closely to the successful blueprint first laid out by 2007’s Earth, pitting a wildlife family unit against the not necessarily nurturing elements.

Released just ahead of Earth Day, Bears could snuggle up handsomely with family audiences looking for some holiday weekend adventure, although it will have to fight for a share of the turf claimed a week earlier by the exotic birds of Fox’s Rio 2.

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To help give it a leg up, during Bears’ opening week Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the National Park Foundation.

Co-directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, who previously teamed on African Cats, the adventure takes place along the breathtaking Alaskan peninsula, where first-time mom Sky and her two tiny cubs, Amber and Scout, have emerged from hibernation and need to start addressing the food situation.

For a baby bear, getting to that sustenance isn’t exactly a piece of cake, what with avalanches and predatory animals to deal with, including some of their own kind, like Magnus, the dominant alpha male in their neighborhood, and Chinook, a very hungry outcast who constantly poses a threat to clingy Amber and mischievous Scout.

By now it’s a familiar tale of one family’s survival instinct, but it’s hard not to cuddle up to a cute cub, and all that fearlessly up-close-and-personal footage, set extensively against that untouched Alaskan coastline, nevertheless makes for a compelling excursion.

The inherent drama is boosted by George Fenton’s seriously symphonic score and contrasts with those delightfully loose, animated voiceovers courtesy of Reilly, a big teddy bear of an actor if ever there were one.

Production: Silverback Films

Narrator: John C. Reilly

Directors: Alastair Fothergill & Keith Scholey

Screenwriters: Alastair Fothergill, Adam Chapman

Producers: Keith Scholey, Adam Chapman

Principal photography: Sophie Darlington, John Shier, Warwick Sloss, Gavin Thurston, Mark Yates, Matthew Aeberhard, John Aitchison, Mark Smith

Editor: Andy Netley

Music: George Fenton

Rated G, 77 minutes