Disneynature's latest documentary Bears follows a family of grizzlies braving the harsh wilderness of Alaska in order to find food. Is Bears a fun, educational documentary that's great for the entire family? Jeffrey Harris checks in with his review.
Directed By: Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey Runtime: 86 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated G
Bears is the latest documentary from Disneynature, following as the title aptly calls them bears, or rather a family of grizzly bears living in the Alaskan wilderness to be exact. The film follows a trio of bears, a mama bear Skye and her two cubs, Scout and Amber. After waking from hibernation from the winter and giving birth to two cubs, Skye and her cubs emerge from their dwelling to head out and forage and look for food and some hearty salmon to eat, lest they starve. Skye guides her cubs through the wilderness, braving predators and bad weather condition in order to survive.
As a feature-length nature documentary, itís completely acceptable. The wildlife footage of the bears in their natural habit is fantastically shot. The way in which the filmmakers are able to get so close into the lives of these bears is quite impressive. The footage is quite immersive into the world of Alaskan grizzly bears. The closing credit sequence also shows just how up close and personal the film crew did get around the bears, even holding their campsite and tents on the bearís turf where the bears seem to curiously walk around. One wonders if these bears are simply used to having humans around scoping them out.
Overall, the documentary doesn't come off as too manipulative. There is narration by John C. Reilly who kind of panders the style for children, which is OK because this film is clearly aimed as more of an educational film for younger viewers. However, I recall being riveted by nature documentaries at the old IMAX theaters that usually didn't have the cutesy narrations. That being said, Reillyís narration was nowhere near as obnoxious and offensive as the voice-acting inserted into Walking with Dinosaurs movie, which was a travesty. Thankfully, Disney did not try to give the bears personalized voices to go with their non-moving mouths.
That being said, the documentary does come off as a little toned down and pandering at times. Because of Reilly's narration, far too often the film feels like it's pandering to a young audience and talking down to them way too much. That being said, it is understandable, since this is meant more as an educational piece for kids.
Co-directors Fothergill and Scholey previously directed the Disneynature documentary Chimpanzees. They both do a great job of showing how bears forage and hunt for food, and what they eat if one of their primary food source, salmon, is not readily available. We also get a sense of bear interaction and a conflict with a male bear that was outcast by the meadowís alpha bear. Not being an expert on grizzlies, I canít say for certain how accurate the portrayal is, but it definitely comes off that way. But Fothergill and Scholey really do a fantastic job of capturing these beautiful creatures with some tremendous landscape and vista shots. Alaska does look like quite a mysterious, magical, almost otherworldly place here.
The 411: As a nature documentary, Bears was pretty acceptable and inoffensive. The documentary is beautifully shot and captures grizzly bears living and interacting in their natural habitat. The nature footage looks quite spectacular. Since the documentary is aimed more at kids and younger viewers, it does come off a bit toned down. John C. Reilly's narration was a bit pandering at times. But overall, it's a short, inoffensive documentary for the kids to learn about animals.