April 17, 2014 Updated: April 17, 2014 at 11:55 am
Narrated by John C. Reilly; directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey; 78 minutes; G; B
"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 nature documentary every year at Earth Day.
It's gorgeous, intimate and beautifully photographed. And it's cute and kid-friendly, with enough jokes to balance the drama that comes from any film that flirts with how dangerous and unforgiving the wild actually is.
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 filmmakers get right underneath the fur to see the tiny cubs just after birth, and the extreme close-ups and very cinematic tracking shots take us into a pristine wilderness where survival is a matter of instinct, pluck and more than a little luck.
It's reassuring to see that there are still places as unspoiled as this and that Disney is willing to pour some of its theme park and Marvel Studio millions back into documentaries that are more worthwhile than profitable. Roger Moore, McClatchy Newspapers