Disneynature’s latest production takes moviegoers on a splendid Alaskan adventure tracking a grizzly bear single mother and her two newborn cubs. The pair who brought us “African Cats” in 2011, Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, team up again to educate and mesmerize viewers. “Bears” provides a fascinating inside look at survival along the Alaskan peninsula’s snow capped mountains and valleys. The spectacular up-close views and vivid film footage documents the lives of these three bears over the course of one-year, as they forage for food and attempt to avoid the dangers lurking along their journey to find salmon.
Veteran actor and comedian John C. Reilly narrates the film, providing context and humor to the wildlife adventures being witnessed. Reilly would not have been my first choice as storyteller, but his voice aptly ambles along at about the same, effective, pace as the bear cubs. However, there’s no mistaking what this movie is about, nor who its stars are - the grizzlies. Period. Just as a protective sow’s only concern is her cub’s wellbeing, “Bears” the movie keeps the filmgoers’ focus clearly - and appropriately - on the grizzlies and their struggles to survive. The only humans found in the movie are the camera operators and support staff who get a much-deserved moment of screen time near the film’s end; a fitting tribute to the team members who tempted fate and isolation to capture these remarkable, remote scenes for our viewing pleasure.
This documentary’s biggest coup is the sheer magnitude of its stunning, majestic cinematography. The ability of these filmmakers to gain access to and live among the grizzly bear population, is a testament to their courage and desire to give viewers the raw, real and unfiltered look at this enormous species. The eye-popping camera work and accompanying music soundtrack even skillfully bridges the occasional slower moments of the story.
Through the powerful lens of a camera, “Bears” is another example of Disney nature’s superb educational filmmaking. This adventure of a grizzly bear mother, trying to raise her two cubs, offers a cinematography feat approaching the level of last year’s Oscar-winning “Gravity” masterpiece. Between the dangers facing this trio of grizzlies in The Last Frontier and their desperate need for salmon to survive, is a riveting wildlife story. Whatever lack of suspense and somewhat bland narration exists, is made up for by the film’s amazing camera shots and behind the scenes look into the grizzly lifestyle. That, alone, is worth the price of admission to see “Bears”.