Year 7, Day 224 - 8/12/15 - Movie #2,118
BEFORE: Continuing with the nature theme, another relatively short film tonight (78 min.), and I assure you, there is something like a plan here, which should be a bit more evident after tomorrow's film.
THE PLOT: A documentary that follows an Alaskan bear family as its young cubs are taught life's most important lessons.
AFTER: Just last night, I was ranting about Disney-funded documentaries, and now here is one. This one's rated "G", so that should prevent anyone from renting this, expecting to see a film about large, hairy gay men.
Nope, just the animal kind of bears here. The film opens with them waking up from hibernation - a mother and two cubs. Right off the bat, I'm confused - were the cubs born over the winter, or during the winter? Since this film is so kid-friendly, any references to reproduction seem to have been redacted, for fear they might lead to children asking complicated questions that parents aren't ready to answer yet. Drinking milk from mama cub is OK, but don't talk about birth or mating. Even a horny large male bear chasing a female is rebuffed - God forbid we see on film what happens if he catches her.
Instead, it's all about the quest for food - if mama bear Sky doesn't eat 90 pounds of salmon in a summer, she could stop producing milk for her cubs. But instead of going to the shore where the bears are awaiting the first salmon to head up-river, she takes her cubs to some mud flats, where they dig for clams, and another spot where they turn up rocks to find eels. In both cases, the fare is described as not being anything close to salmon, either in taste or quantity - so WHY does she go there? A little more scientific explanation would be helpful here.
Instead, we get the narrator trying to say what the little cubs might say, if they could talk - really simple stuff like "Hey, ma, look at me!" and "Hey, my claw is stuck in this clam!" I know this is geared for kids, but that's still no reason to talk down to the audience. I think kids could handle some bears that could put together more adult imaginary sentences.
I think you walk a fine line when you start anthropomorphizing animals - admittedly, my wife and I do it all the time, we each can have a conversation with our cat, since we take turns providing the cat's voice for the other end of the talk. This gives our cat some personality, though he can be a real imaginary asshole sometimes - but he's just funnier that way. But it's a bit arrogant to say that after watching these bears, we understand what is typical parental concern, and what is just basic instinct.
I do appreciate that the film didn't shy away that since food in Alaska can be scarce, bear cubs could be eaten by wolves, or even adult male bears. In bear culture there's apparently no moral reasoning against cannibalism - at some point, all meat is just meat. But why eat bear cub when you can eat salmon? Delicious, raw, stupid salmon that follows the urge to swim upstream to lay eggs - provided it doesn't jump up over a waterfall and right into a bear's mouth, that is.
It hardly seems fair - a bear that learns the right place to stand doesn't even need to chase a fish - but don't hate the player, hate the game. Circle of life and all that. And that's the real money shot of the film, finding that bear that knows JUST where to position himself. But lest you start to think that bears are really intelligent - how come they can't remember where the best salmon pond is - why is it such a hardship to find it again?
Plus, there's a 2-week walk from their dens in the mountains to the shore - why don't they build there dens closer to the shore so they don't have to walk as far? Instead of defending her bear cubs from the grey wolf, why doesn't Sky kill and eat the wolf, if she's so hungry?
Starring the voice of John C. Reilly (last seen in "Guardians of the Galaxy")
RATING: 4 out of 10 hollow logs