Northampton Press

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Movie Review: More than a country 'Bears' jamboree

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus


The title says it all.

It's as simple as that in the Disneynature documentary about a family of Alaskan Kodiak Brown bears.


Where's the voice of Morgan Freeman?

Morgan Freeman is the go-to guy for voice-overs, television commercials and animal kingdom documentaries. "March of the Penguins" (2005) wouldn't have been the same without the voice of Morgan Freeman.

John C. Reilly narrates "Bears."

Yes, that John C. Reilly, known for playing goofy, doofus-like clods in comedies, i.e., "Step Brothers" (2008).

John C. Reilly is fine as the narrator for "Bears." He's kind of a big, likeable bear-like guy anyway.

In "Bears," Reilly sometimes takes on the persona of the bears, pretending to voice their thoughts and emotions even though the bears seem to communicate well among themselves with bird-like sounds. Reilly's boyish voice of wide-eyed naivety works well with the subject material.

Reilly generates the documentary's biggest laugh when, observing a bear lolling on its back after a feast of spawning salmon, he says, "This guy looks like my dad when he's watching TV."

"Bears" is amazing in its apparently candid footage and storyline of a mother bear, Sky, emerging from hibernation after birthing two cubs, Scout and Amber. We follow them down from her mountain lair to the beach where she becomes a furry clam-digger. The film was lensed in the 5,000-acre Katmai National Park on the Alaskan Peninsula.

There are dangers, including other predators: a lurking wolf and even other bears, male and female, who vie for food and dominance. Have you ever seen bears wrestle? You will in "Bears." That over-used adjective "awesome" truly applies when the bears rear up on their hind legs.

Sky and her cubs uncover a cache of mussels. They follow the salmon upstream. Seeing the scenes of the bears and salmon is worth the price of admission.

The bears didn't miss the train, but they are walking. Soon, a year has passed and, with winter, it's back up the mountain for momma bear and her cubs for six months of sleep. The cubs will be with her for two years.

The crisp cinematography is astounding. The editing is terrific. There are very few camera tricks, other than some always-intriguing time-lapse photography.

The clouds, snow-covered mountains, shore, forest, other animals (including seagulls, ravens, eagles and especially salmon), an avalanche and the colors, shapes and views of the entire landscape and ocean are wonderful. "Bears" is a delightful meditative experience, especially on the big screen in a movie theater.

Directors Alastair Fothergill ("The Blue Planet," 2001; "Earth," 2007; "African Cats," 2011; "Chimpanzee," 2012; producer, TV's "Nature," 2002 - '13) and Keith Scholey ("African Cats," 2011) have created a mini-masterpiece.

"Bears" was released for what seems to be Disneynature's annual commemoration of Earth Day. For Earth Day 2015, watch for Disneynature's "Monkey Kingdom."

"Bears," MPAA Rated G (General Audiences. All Ages Admitted); Genre: Documentary; Run time: 1 hr., 18 min.; Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: If you wonder how the "Bears" directors and camera persons captured the amazing encounters with flora and fauna, stay for the closing credits to view some out-takes the only time humans appear in the film.

Box Office, May 2: "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" began the summer movie season big, but with no record, opening with $92 million, putting "The Other Woman" back to No. 2, $14.2 million, $47.3 million, two weeks; with "Heaven Is For Real" continuing at No. 3, $8.7 million, $65.6 million, three weeks;

4. "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," $7.7 million, $237.1 million, five weeks; 5. "Rio 2," $7.6 million, $106.4 million, four weeks; 6. "Brick Mansions," $3.5 million, $15.4 million, two weeks; 7. "Divergent," $2.1 million, $142.6 million, seven weeks; 8. "The Quiet Ones," $2 million, $6.7 million, two weeks; 9. "God's Not Dead," $1.7 million, $55.5 million, seven weeks; 10. "The Grand Budapest Hotel," $1.7 million, $51.5 million, nine weeks

Unreel, May 9:

"Neighbors," R: Nicholas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall") directs Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Rose Byrne and Lisa Kudrow in the comedy about a couple with a newborn who live next to a college fraternity house.

"Chef," R: Jon Favreau directs Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Amy Sedaris and himself in a comedy about a chef who launches a food truck after he loses his restaurant job.

"Moms' Night Out," PG: The dads babysit so that mom and her friends can have a girls' night out. Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton and Trace Adkins star in the comedy.

"Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return," PG: The animated musical adds a new story and new characters voiced by Lea Michele, Kelsey Grammer, Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi.

"God's Pocket," R: The drama about a construction fatality "accident," said to be the last film made by Philip Seymour Hoffman, also stars Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins and John Turturro.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.