Image Entertainment // 2007 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 24th, 2009
The true story of a polar bear who captured the world.
Oh wow, a documentary on polar bears! I wonder if we can make it through the whole way without mentioning global warming?
Knut tells three stories: a mama polar bear in the wild running around the snows with her two cubs; a couple of sibling brown bears tearing up the woods; and Knut himself, the bear cub from a German zoo whose mother rejected him, forcing him to be raised by a zookeeper. So far, so good. No global warming.
Over in the Arctic, the polar bear family go seal-hunting, play in snow drifts, and generally do lots of cute stuff. The brown bears check out the crystal-clear mountain water and fart around in the grass. And Knut's popularity with the general public make him a zoo star. Still, no global warming.
In the end, the narrator says how awesome it is that a zookeeper can take care of Knut. Since humans have changed the world and made it warmer, we should all take a lesson from the zoo and do what we can to save the cute bears, and -- ah, @$%$.
As far as kid-centric documentaries about animals that love to maul the crap out of you, Knut & Friends is serviceable. The visuals are gorgeous and the animals are cute enough to make a death row inmate smile. Of the three branching storylines, Knut's is the most interesting. His counterparts just wander around some pretty backdrops.
Knut, on the other hand, has got it going on. First of all, getting rejected by your mom? That has to be tough. But when we see Knut's interaction with the zookeeper and the obvious mutual affection the two have for each other...well, friends, I'd be lying to you if I said this cold-hearted bastard of a reviewer didn't feel a least a tingle of happiness at the sight of a full-grown man cradling a baby polar bear and feeding it formula. The whole point this coddling is to get Knut prepped for his new home at the zoo, while also lightly chronicling his exploding fame on the world stage.
That's really all there is to this film. While Knut earns his top billing through the importance of his story, the peripheral bear tales make for okay documentary grist. The kids should enjoy the sights and sounds of the wildlife and some of the shots director Michael Johnson scores are genuinely awe-inducing (I'm still not entirely sure how he managed to grab the more intimate bear-in-the-wild footage). And, yes, we do get the now-mandatory global warming dose of fear tossed in at the end. It's not dwelled upon, but still defaults to the requisite "change your life or these cute-ass polar bears are going to die" implication. The day we get a polar bear movie that doesn't include an AGW PSA will signify that a) it's too late because Earth has already been plunged into an environmental catastrophe and Kevin Costner is sailing around out there on the seas in a trimaran, or b)...actually, that's the only scenario I can picture.
The Blu-ray is simple. Picture quality is solid, but not stunning. The 1.78:1 1080p transfer blasts out the three different vistas nicely, with the Arctic footage the most impressive. This isn't a loud film so the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio doesn't have much to do, though that narration certainly sounds nice. No extras = sad kids.
Cute bears and nice scenery. What else do you want?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated