A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Kids will learn lots of things about brown bears, like how they live in the Alaskan peninsula, travel great lengths to find spawning salmon every year after hibernation, and nurse and care for their cubs for two years -- as well as how male bears don't participate in child-rearing and may even cannibalize the cubs of other males. But there's not a lot of in-depth discussion about the bears, what threatens their habitats, and how they interact with one another in bear society.
Family oriented messages about sticking together to overcome obstacles, protecting one another from threats, and caring for your young. This is also, in a way, a tribute to single parenting, since in bear society, only mothers raise their offspring.
Positive Role Models
The narration ascribes human characteristics to the animals, so it's easy to see the mother bear in "human" terms. She takes her job to protect and provide for her offspring seriously. She cares for cubs when it would be easier to flee and get to the salmon faster; she faces alpha bears and a hungry wolf in order to keep her cubs safe. And she doesn't leave her cub behind, even when it seems like he's been killed.
Violence & Scariness
The mother bear and her cubs must overcome various obstacles -- nature, a hungry wolf, and fellow bears. Although they all survive, there are several tense, perilous moments when it seems like one or both of the cubs might die. In one scene, a hungry male searches for a cub, and then the cub doesn't emerge, making viewers think he's been eaten.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
When Magnus the alpha bear spots a she-bear, the music changes, and the narrator says he has "game" as Magnus tries to flirt with this potential mate. But she seems to shun him, so the narrator says "that's Bear for 'no.'"
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that wildlife documentary Bears is family friendly overall, but a few moments/scenes might be too tense and potentially scary for preschool-aged viewers. None of the animals die, but there are several scenes in which the lives of the mother bear and her cubs are in danger, and in one it seems like a cub has been eaten by an adult male bear. Other threats include predator males, a gray wolf, and the environment itself -- all providing for dramatic sequences. Children who can get past that part of the movie will learn a good bit about the brown bears of Alaska and get a close-up look at how mama bears treat their cubs. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Veteran Disneynature filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey know what they're doing with nature documentaries. They have an amazing team of cinematographers who can take incredible shots that are either so close that you can see individual strands of wet fur on the bears' bodies or so large-scale that you get a breathtaking view of Alaska. The Bears footage took a year to complete, and like all of the pair's documentaries, the cinematography is unforgettably beautiful.
As for the narration, Reilly is game for the funnier lines without being overwhelming with the hammy humor. His voice lends itself perfectly to switching between factual statements and corny comments about the bears acting like humans. The story celebrates the relationship between a mother bear and her cubs, and it's compelling -- and sometimes intense -- to watch. So just make sure you have kids who can handle potentially dangerous scenes, or they might end up worried about the cubs instead of caught up in the whimsy.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.