Disneynature's fifth theatrical documentary follows a family of three grizzlies -- protective mother Sky and her two newborn cubs: curious Scout and obedient Amber.
Set in Alaska's rugged Katmai National Park, it begins as they emerge from their snowy den after winter hibernation and make their way down the mountain trail, barely avoiding an avalanche.
As they proceed toward the grassy meadows and streams where they can feed on spawning salmon, danger lurks. Statistically, only half of all bear cubs survive their first year of life, succumbing either to starvation or predators -- like Magnus, the area's dominant alpha male, the outcast Chinook and the prowling wolf Tikaani.
British co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey ("African Cats"), working with co-writer Adam Chapman, anthropomorphize the animals, giving them human names, characteristics and imagined dialogue, to create an educational, emotionally appealing story, which is amiably narrated by John C. Reilly.
Parents should know the abandonment and drowning scares are delicately handled but could, nevertheless, upset tiny tots.
The vibrant cinematography is spectacular, both aerial and ground shots, and youngsters will be amused by the vivid footage of the bears' clumsy but efficient fishing as the salmon jump out of the water, valiantly trying to make it upstream. George Fenton's symphonic score emphasizes the intrinsic drama, epitomized by Olivia Holt's "Carry On."
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Bears" is an engrossing, engaging 8 -- and the closing credits reveal behind-the-scenes glimpses of filming in the wild.