A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
What's the story?
BEARS follows an Alaskan brown bear named Sky and her two nurslings, Amber and Scout. Sky and the cubs, who were born during hibernation, must leave their winter den in search of food, or else Sky won't be able to produce enough milk to feed the cubs during the next winter. The three bears embark on a dangerous journey across the Alaskan peninsula to reach the spawning salmon that make up the bulk of a bear's diet. John C. Reilly narrates the "true-life adventure" as Sky, Amber, and Scout face everything from threatening alpha bears to natural disasters in order to make it to the fish that will nourish and sustain them for another year.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why wildlife documentaries like Bears are so popular. What attracts families to nature films? Are they better for kids than other live-action movies? Why or why not?
The narrator combines moments of humor and imagined dialogue with discussing facts about the way that bears live. Does the combination work? Which parts do you prefer?
Some critics have mentioned that the narration doesn't delve deeply into the way that bears live and act. Why do you think filmmakers might have chosen that approach? Might that make the movie more appealing to a younger audience?
Does humanizing the animals in movies like Bears make them more or less likable? Is it right that some are depicted as "good" and some as "evil"? Aren't all the animals just acting like animals?
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