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‘Polar Bear’: Robin’s movie review

For this week’s Movie Minutes, Robin Holabird takes a look at the new Disneynature film, Polar Bear.

A poster for the Disneynature movie “Polar Bear” shows a mother polar bear and her cub standing on a patch of snow while looking straight forward.

Earth Day arrives every April with a highly-anticipated new Disneynature feature, and for me, great trepidation. While I look forward to stunning cinematography, I always dread the inevitable - at least one animal will die. The Disney team taught me this way back with the animated feature Bambi, where I joined millions of kids by feeling saddened, if not traumatized, when the title character loses his mom. Fast forward decades, and I still get attached to every adorable animal on screen. All those years failed to make me better at coping with their fates.

Nonetheless, I braced myself and watched Polar Bear, opening on Disney+, to celebrate nature and push to preserve the environment needed for the animals’ survival. The Arctic’s melting ice proves a great threat to the bears whose lives seem hard enough without climate issues.

Spending years tracking a female from her days as a cub through her own motherhood, filmmakers capture the bear’s struggles for food and shelter. Using techniques proven on other projects like Penguins, the team follows their subject closely but unobtrusively, catching behaviors ranging from playing to hunting.

Allowing for a family audience, the filmmakers leave out the blood and guts involved in dining. But neither do they ignore harsh realities, alerting both young and old audience members to some of life’s sad truths. Officially a documentary, Polar Bear steps into some fantasy by anthropomorphizing, using narration by its lead subject.

Providing human thoughts proves easy with expressive bears, whose antics often resemble those of people who want to play, relax, eat and survive. Catherine Keener steps in as narrator, taking on a thoughtful and calm tone for her bear. The overall impact celebrates the animals and offers connections through Polar Bears International, a group working to save their lives.

This review aired on KUNR FM on Friday, April 22.

Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can browse a full archive of her reviews here.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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