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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 18 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 16
Agreeable Bears a familiar real life adventure
Arts & Entertainment
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Agreeable Bears a familiar real life adventure

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

BEARS Now playing
Disneynature, the branch of Walt Disney that brought forth Earth Day-timed releases of documentaries like Earth, African Cats and Chimpanzees, is back with their fifth effort, Bears, and much like those that preceded it, the film is a perfectly fine family-friendly 'Real Life Adventure' that's as enjoyable as it is thought provoking. Filmed in the wilds of the Alaskan Peninsula documenting a year in the life of a gigantic brown bear (here dubbed 'Sky') and her two cubs 'Amber' and 'Scout,' the movie is filled with perils, pitfalls, heartbreak, heroism and love, insights into our planet's delicate natural wonders sprinkled liberally throughout.

The formula is both familiar and clear. Returning directors Alastair Fothergill (he's helmed all the film's in the Disneynature series save Oceans) and Keith Scholey (he co-directed African Cats) know all the beats and all the dramatic nuances they want to augment and highlight, everything following a safely satisfying pattern, keeping things on a relatively consistent kid-centric plateau. The scares never truly frighten, although the threat of something terrible happening to either Amber or Scout is continually omnipresent, both directors distributing information with a simple, easygoing eloquence that's painless to digest even for the youngest viewer.

At the same time, the pair could use something to shake things up a bit. Maybe it's the fact so much of this tale plays out like a rather overly dramatic episode of PBS' long-running 'Nature,' maybe it's that John C. Reilly's narration can get a little too cutesy at times, but there were moments my mind couldn't help but wander and I could have cared less about what was going to happen to any of the three protagonists. The sense of awe, the sense of majesty, those are oddly missing, and even though the landscapes are continually impressive, I was never as fascinated by this wild kingdom or its diverse inhabitants near as much as I kept thinking I should have been.

Oceans was directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (the team behind the Academy Award-winning Winged Migration)and is without question the best film in the Disneynature series up to this point. I can't help but feel the studio may return to these two and let Fothergill (who, along with Scholey, helms next year's Monkey Kingdom) take a break for a film or two. The pattern is getting too familiar, too stale, and even though these wildlife exploits are far from unworthy, my excitement in regards to watching them is noticeably starting to wane.

Still, Bears isn't a bad film, far from it; and I do think parents should show it to their children (and hopefully watch it with them). I'm just not sure if it is worthwhile for them to head out to the multiplex to view it instead of waiting for the movie to hit DVD and Blu-ray. With ticket prices being what they are, with concessions so astronomically expensive, I can't say seeing a documentary such as this in the theater is worth the price of admission, and as good as it might be, that's a somewhat massive caveat difficult to get beyond.

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