Directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey
Narrated by John C. Reilly
We humans seem to like nature best when it fits neatly into a good narrative arc.
When that arc is sprinkled with a healthy dose of humor, so much the better. Disneynature’s “Bears,” the studio’s latest film to focus on the real-life struggles and joys of adorable baby animals, is a sweet, surprisingly fun and occasionally tense little adventure. Kids will love it, and even adults are likely to find themselves caught up in the lives of this particular bear family.
The story follows a mama bear and her two cubs as they work to find food in the Alaskan wilds, starting with the end of one hibernation and ending at the beginning of another. The food hunt serves as a simple, easy-to-understand plot arc, sprinkled in equal measure with dramatic moments (bears try to steal their food, a place where they hoped to find fish doesn't have any) and nice, easy moments of playing and cuddling.
The narration during these last bits offers some of the movie's best, with John C. Reilly offering up some surprisingly funny imaginary dialogue for the bears. It's very simple stuff – the slightly cheeky thoughts of one of the bear cubs, the thoughts of a dominant bear who's going to sit back and let someone else do all the work – but it adds a much-needed dose of personality to the genre.
Just as important, Reilly knows how to be serious during the movie's more stressful moments. Nature can be rough, and there are some moments where the health and longevity of the adorable tiny bears are in question. Thankfully, there's nothing here that will scar young minds (I'm looking at you, "March of the Penguins.")
The cinematography is just as gorgeous as always, with nature shots so crisp and lush that you can see the individual leaves on the mountains. If this doesn't inspire a round of vacationers looking to book wild nature trips in Alaska, I'll be stunned.
Almost more interesting, however, are the behind-the-scenes shots that run during the movie's credits. Camera operators filmed the camera operators for the main film, and you'll get to see how they got close (or seemed like they got close) to the animals they were filming.
If you've made Disneynature movies a regular part of your Earth Day celebration, you'll definitely want to see this one. If you've been avoiding the series because they've seemed a little dull, "Bears" is the perfect opportunity to step out into the wild world.