Nature lover/environmentalist Marty Stouffer is the title character in “The Man Who Loved Bears.” About halfway through the film, I became The Man Who Kept Looking at His Watch.
Directed by and starring the rugged Stouffer, “Bears” is about a guy who inadvertently bear-naps a baby grizzly from a Colorado zoo, raises it from cub to killer and lives to tell the tale.
The movie follows Stouffer and the cub, nicknamed “Griz” presumably because Yogi was taken, as they go about a couple of years in their secluded Rocky Mountain hideaway, learning to fish, dig a den for Griz to hibernate in and slide down snowy mountaintops on their butts.
If you are a fan of Stouffer’s TV specials, or nature documentaries in general for that matter, it’s likely you’ve already experienced much of what happens in “The Man Who Loved Bears” before. Most of the nature footage is obvious second-unit photography, and it’s equally obvious that scenes featuring big, bad poachers have been staged for dramatic effect.
Not that much of anything that happens in “Bears” is believable, anyway. Would Stouffer really decide to adopt Griz on a moment’s notice rather than returning him to the zoo? Why does baby Griz keep changing color and size? (That one’s easy — Griz is clearly played by several different bears throughout the film.) And does Stouffer not own one winter jacket he can throw on before he and Griz head outside to frolic in the snow?
OK, I’m being a bit unfair. It’s just that the best nature docs are the ones that show the true nature of the wild and, as inherently compelling as a doc about grizzly bears ought to be, I ain’t buying a second of what Stouffer is selling in this.
Director: Marty Stouffer
Narrator: Henry Fonda
★★ (out of ★★★★)