The opening scenes are breath-taking of the Alaska peninsula. All of the landscapes that follow are equally so. From snow-covered mountains to high-grass meadows to sandy beaches to a literal golden pond, any nature photographer worth his salt can craft beautiful visuals out of this.
The more and more I watch these Earth-Day, Disney films though, the more and more I realize the formula. The filmmakers take a year in the life of a particular animal and observe all that the animal does to survive, like finding food and fending off predators.
John C. Reilly's narration is funny and entertaining, as he provides us with what intuitively the bears are thinking or comedic riffs on their actions, as well as with educational material on the environment and habits. The most interesting bit to come from his narration is the way in which several animals, including bears, wolves and even ravens, are really good at being thieves.
Unfortunately, filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey are at the whim of whatever they capture and whatever the animals do. If what the animals do isn't enough to write an interesting or compelling narrative, beyond the typical narrative for these nature documentaries, then it makes for a boring film, which this movie ultimately becomes.
For the most part, this movie is a bunch of brown bears splashing around ponds and streams fishing for salmon, eating it and then laying around scratching themselves. There isn't the fight for survival or dissection of bear behavior or animal society as in Disney's African Cats or Derek Joubert's The Last Lions (2011). Two Stars out of Five. Rated G for general audiences. Running Time: 1 hr. and 17 mins.