Bears is ridiculously old-fashioned in a good way, a throwback to the Disney nature films of the 1950s, with scenic vistas, animals fighting and frolicking, and deep-zoom shots of cute bears snuffling around for clams in shoreline mud flats, carrying cubs on their backs, and snatching salmon in mid-leap.
Like those corny older films, Bears knits a year’s worth of footage into a story with avuncular voiceover narration, this time from John C. Reilly. The film follows a bear called Sky and her two cubs, Scout and Amber, as they awaken from hibernation and make their way across the land of sky blue waters to the local riparian zone for the annual salmon run.
They encounter seasonal avalanches, hungry cannibal bears, a wolf, and a raven that the filmmakers and ol’ Dewey Cox insist guides Sky and her cubs to ever more plentiful sources of food. The soundtrack strikes epic highs during the Peter Jackson aerial shots through Alaskan mountain ranges, and bangs on an irksome Duck Dynasty guitar whenever bears act goofy, scratching their backs on trees or flopping in the water.
Such is the intimacy the directors create with the animals that one sequence, in which a larger and more dominant bear separates mom and cubs and chases them into the woods, generates real suspense.
Sincere and unexpectedly good, the film happily reintroduces another element of classic kids’ movies: a tidy 77-minute run time.