The latest entry in the Disneynature series of wildlife documentaries follows a mama bear (who is named Sky in the narration) and her two cubs (Scout and Amber) as they journey out of their hibernation cave and across the Alaskan wilderness in search of food. Not unlike many single mothers in the human world, this parent has plenty to keep her busy: angry adult male bears that resent their presence, a sneaky wolf that keeps following the ursine family, and an elusive food supply that almost always seems to evaporate whenever the bears arrive.
To its credit, the film offers some of the most invigorating cinematography presented on screen this year – most notably in an early sequence when the bear family leaves the dark comfort of its den and emerges into the crisp air of the apex of a snow-capped mountain. There is also an amusing sequence when the bears attempt to catch salmon that are swimming upstream – the fish keeping flying out of the water and smack the uncoordinated bears in the snouts.
But, alas, the film also carries a major burden of the Disneynature series: a cutesy narration that makes the viewing experience something of an endurance test. In this go-round, John C. Reilly serves up the wisecracks as the bears fumble and stumble around – including an extended scene where a cub gets his claw stuck in an oversized clam. And as a G-rated film, there is a somewhat sanitized version of life in the wild – one moment where it appears that a cub was killed may startle very young viewers, but there is no harm in revealing that the cub emerges from the fracas with nary a hair out of place.
This film, like the other Disneynature documentaries, works best in introducing youngsters to the beauty and vastness of the animal kingdom. But adult viewers may do best in tuning down the sound and enjoying the glorious visuals while guessing how the intrepid camera operators were able to achieve so many stunning shots.