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Bears – Movie Review

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Bears – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

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Nature documentaries are fairly easy to make decent and somewhat interesting. Camera crews travel out to the wilderness, film the animals in their natural habitat, piece it together, record a decent narration and place it onto the screens. As long as it’s in focus, the result should be enchanting as animals tend to be. While there isn’t the intimacy that can be gained from a visit to a zoo, the creatures are probably better off in their own homes away from mankind ruining their environment. Bears, the latest in Disney’s recent line of nature titles, features exactly what the title promises and that’s all you need. If you want a dramatic and harsher look into bears, Werner Herzog’s riveting Grizzly Man might be more up your alley.

Directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey do a splendid job of taking their camera team around Alaska, following the various bears around. It’s quite impressive not only to see the filmmakers get so close to them, but that their helicopter shots don’t scare them off. The end credits montage of the team at work provides a nice peek behind the scenes at how they were able to get the shots they needed and the trek through Alaska. The bears themselves are wonderful majestic animals, though their more menacing side is kept at bay. The film mostly showcases their adorable and curious personalities, especially a pair of cubs. The salmon run shows their skills, but the scenes of them simply lounging about are also fun in their own right. Occasionally, the movie shows the ferocity found when the bears are pitted against each other, but any real bloodbath that would otherwise ensue is left out. This is a nature documentary where only the defenseless fish are left for dead, becoming dinner.

John C. Reilly’s narration is very inconsistent. Sometimes, he is given some educational information about bears and at other points, he sounds like he is reading his children a bedtime story. There are even parts where it seems like the directors merely showed the footage and asked him to improvise some jokes. There are even elements in which the narration’s information comes across as somewhat suspicious. When a lone wolf approaches the bears, the voice-over makes it appear like he’s about to attack the bears, but this doesn’t quite match the footage shown. It thankfully never becomes insulting or downright annoying like the last-minute voice-overs in last year’s semi-documentary Walking with Dinosaurs, but a slightly more informative narration would have been more appealing.

Complimenting the documentary is George Fenton’s booming score, which does heighten the excitement as an avalanche approaches the audience and the bears chase after their aquatic meals. When the bears are merely relaxing, the music reflects this and the sad moments are provided the right emotional cues. The bears have enough personality of their own that the music doesn’t necessarily have to act for them, but Fenton never becomes intrusive. Bears is not Winged Migration nor is it on-par with the classic Disney True-Life Adventures this series is emulating, but it’s adorable and somewhat educational enough for animal and nature lovers. While the computer-generated animals of Rio 2 are loveable and fun with a wonderful musical beat, the real bears seen in this movie are worth a visit, too.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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