Whether it’s the skill of director Jean-Jacques Annaud or merely the dearth of good films for little ’uns, ursine aw-bless-fest The Bear remains firmly atop the kid-friendly wildlife drama heap nearly two decades later. In spinning his 1988 tale of an orphaned grizzly who finds a big bear stepdad, survives shotgun-totin’ humans and a mean ol’ mountain lion, Annaud draws stellar performances from his two animal stars, the cute-as-a-button baby Douce and Hollywood vet Bart. Meanwhile, the prettily-filmed Dolomites don’t quite pass for the Canadian Rockies, French star Tchéky Karyo gets dubbing help as the hunter-with-a-heart and someone has fun with unnecessary bear’s-eye-view dream sequences and magic mushroom trips.
Ultimately, the film’s strengths lie in what it leaves out: saccharine and cheese. Dialogue is minimal, the film-score tap is turned on sparingly and there’s no avuncular March Of The Penguins-style voiceover. Unhesitatingly recommended.