‘Bears:’ Cuz I Am Bearly Breathing

If you are a human being with a heart, or even half of one, Disneynature’s Bears will make it fill up with love and warmth and rainbows and tears of wonder. Narrated by John C. Reilly (because WHO ELSE?! HE IS THE PERFECT PERSON TO NARRATE A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT BEARS IT’S TOO MUCH I CAN’T HANDLE IT), Bears is a magnificently shot documentary that follows a mother bear and her two cubs over the course of their first year of life.

Filmed at the Katmai National Park in Alaska, the landscape is breathtaking, the cinematography is incredible, and the bears are adorable. What more could you want? OH YEAH, JOHN C. REILLY MAKING SILLY JOKES ABOUT FUZZY CREATURES. That’s cool too.

Though Bears is family friendly, they don’t shy away from the reality of the harrowing journey these cuddly animals that could totally kill me have to make. We’re told at the beginning that almost half of all bear cubs don’t make it through their first year, and we only have two to root for, so it’s pretty suspenseful if you ask me. It’s clear that the sole goal of these bears is to survive, to get out of the cold, get enough food, not get eaten by wolves or shunned from the rest of the group, and to build up enough strength to make the journey back to hibernate for the winter.

It’s not a glamorous life, but it is like, raw and real and wild, man, you know? Plus, they manage to slip in a montage of these gigantic beasts falling asleep sitting up, scratching their bellies, rolling over, yawning and swatting at the air, doing all the cute things that you can point and laugh at because dads do them too. Don’t even get me started on the clam incident, because I laughed so hard (you’ll have to see the movie to share in my joy). Oh man, it was such a caCLAMity! I’m not kidding. It made me laugh a hearty, deep in my tummy laugh.

Bears gets serious though, with some tense, probably fabricated but nevertheless heart-wrenching drama involving avalanches, a hungry wolf, a bear-on-bear feud, and ravenous, ruthless, real-life bad-news bears who don’t mind turning to cannibalism if it means they’ll survive. It gets you shaking in your boots, and you realize just how strong and protective the mama bear is, and then you weep and think about how wonderful your own mother is, and then you quickly recover and claim it was a pretty fun movie, but you didn’t cry or anything…

In addition, there are some for-real crazy shots of salmon trying to swim upstream – I could have watched a whole movie about their journey. They brace themselves against the current and follow chemical signifiers to make it back to the place where they hatched, just so they can lay eggs there, but that’s only if they don’t get ripped out of the water and torn apart by a bear, which we are hoping happens so the bears survive! Salmon get the real short end of the stick in Bears, but I guess that’s why the movie isn’t called Salmon, eh eh?

Basically, Bears made me want to give the world one big bear hug. Stay through the credits to see behind the scenes footage showing just how up close and personal these filmmakers got to the bears and to begin questioning all your life choices and start thinking maybe you should have become a rugged, outdoors-y, animal documentarian.

Oh, also, if you are trying to remember what super vanilla pop song the title of the review is referencing, look no further than 1996’s “Barely Breathing,” by the perfectly 90’s named, Duncan Sheik.

Grade: A

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