Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cute bear documentary doesn't hide the wild side

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Bears is exactly the sort of nature documentary we've come to expect from Disneynature, the film division of the company that rolls out a new nature documentary every year at Earth Day.

It's gorgeous, intimate and beautifully photographed. And it's cute and kid-friendly, with just enough jokes to balance the drama that comes from any film that flirts with how dangerous and unforgiving the wild actually is.

Movie review

Bears

Narrated by John C. Reilly

Polo Park, St. Vital

G

78 minutes

31Ñ2 stars out of 5

Other voices:

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

-- Michael Rechtshaffen, Hollywood Reporter

 

Surely some of the film's various incidents have been creatively stitched together from stray bits and pieces of footage, but its central conflict is an entirely organic one, and rarely is any offscreen string pulling distractingly evident.

-- Andrew Barker, Variety

 

Co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey's stirringly captured movie unlocks a sincere sense of awe and reverence within viewers' hearts, even as it frustrates an audience looking for a bit more.

-- Brent Simon, Screen International

Here, it's Alaskan brown bears we follow as cute cubs through their first year of life. A mama bear and her two cubs endure a year of hunger, dangerous encounters with other bears, a wolf and a riptide as they trek from snowy mountains, where the cubs were born, down to the coast where salmon streams feed into the sea.

The mother, Sky, needs to fatten up on salmon in order to survive and nurse her cubs, Amber and Scout, through their coming second winter. The cubs need to discover the world, and stay out of the way of omnivorous male bears and assorted other dangers. We're told, right off the top, that only half of the cubs born each winter make it through their first year alive.

More than once, Bears flirts with grim realities. The adult bear fights are quite intense and frightening.

But John C. Reilly narrates this nature tale with a hint of whimsy, especially when the cubs get into mischief -- as, for instance, they try to learn how to dig up clams, and discover getting "clamped."

They're craving fish, but until the salmon run starts, the cubs have to get by on chewing grass.

"It's like settling for a dirty salad!"

The cubs ride mama Sky's back across freezing rivers, stick close when danger is near and roughhouse with each other and their mother, forcing that involuntary "Awwww" out of even the most jaded viewer.

The filmmakers get underneath the fur to see the tiny cubs just after birth, and the extreme close-ups and cinematic tracking shots take us into a pristine wilderness where survival is a matter of instinct, pluck and more than a little luck.

Use these Earth Day delights the way they were intended -- as big-screen rewards for the intrepid filmmakers who devote years at a time to making them and as a taste of nature most of us, especially the very young, will never be able to experience in the wild.

-- McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2014 G9

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