Pretty Much Says It All, Doesn't It? Agreed. It wouldn't have been nearly as effective if the title was Bears: Shadow Recruits.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Timothy Treadwells out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Mama bear must feed and protect cubs in the CIIIIRCLE OF LIIIIIIFE.
Tagline: "This Earth Day, be inspired by Skye and her cubs."
Better Tagline: "A movie without explosions or dick jokes? Get out of here."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Mama grizzly bear (Skye) sets out from her winter den with baby bears (Scout and Amber) to forage for food, taking care to avoid larger bears and wolves in Alaska's Katami National Park.
It's Disneynature, not Raymond Chandler.
"Critical" Analysis: Disney finally decided they'd gotten enough mileage out of those True-Life Adventures movies they shot shortly after the Korean War. I mean, I remember watching that epic tarantula/wasp fight as a kid in the 70s, and it was already 20 years old at that point.
So for the last seven years, Disneynature has been releasing beautifully shot feature films about our planet. The first, Earth, was released in 2007, with others following roughly every year or so. Up until Bears, they've received relatively little fanfare (this is the first one for which I can remember seeing widespread advertising). And even then, it probably has 1/1000th the marketing budget of the latest Pixar release.
Which seems ridiculous given how comparatively simple the merchandising is.
Set against a magnificent Alaskan backdrop, it's easy to let yourself get taken away by the antics of cubs Scout and Amber. The camerawork is fantastic, and an end credits sequence gives you an idea the lengths to which directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey went to get some of the shots. They also showed healthy respect for the bears' personal space, unlike some I could mention.
In fact, if you've seen Grizzly Man, the locations in Bears will probably be familiar to you, sometimes distractingly so. Much as I tried to avoid it, it was sometimes difficult to keep Werner Herzog's voice from creeping in over John C. Reilly's narration: "To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food ... aw, look at them scamper about!"
But Reilly does a fine job. He's got what I can only describe is a perfect accent for bear narrating (talk about your niche skillsets). The kids in the screening I attended laughed appreciably as he jokingly describes Scout's shenanigans, and also sat in respectful apprehension when he mentioned the ever-present dangers (High tides and wolves and [other] bears! Oh my!). My only complaint is that Disney didn't spring for multiple actors to do the voices. Will Ferrell would've done a great Magnus (king shit of Bear Mountain). And I like Jay Baruchel as the hapless Chinook, but he's probably under contract to DreamWorks.
Things can get a little intense. Bears fight, you know, and it wouldn't be a Disney production if they didn't try to amp up the tension by showing the cubs (Scout, mostly) menaced by Tikaani the wolf (maybe it would be less menacing if they hadn't named it?) and almost drowning. Try explaining to a four-year old that Scout and Amber aren't going to die because *it's a Disney movie* is pointless. Just dry their tears and prepare for a few nightmares. Parenthood is awesome!
Bears is in theaters today. Seriously, those bear fights are pretty intense.
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