THE BBC'S PLANET EARTH is one of the most amazing documentary programs ever recorded, featuring nature footage the likes of which has literally never been seen before. Disney's Earth—the first movie released under the Disneynature label—is a highlights reel culled from the BBC show, edited for maximum adorableness. (Baby polar bears! Baby elephants! Baby duckies! Etc.) And while it's hard to believe that anything to which the phrase "maximum adorableness" can be applied could possibly go awry, Earth manages.
Earth begins in the Arctic at the end of winter, as two polar bear cubs emerge from their den for the first time. As the little cubs slip and slide toward their mother (adorable!), narrator James Earl Jones hints at the ridiculous things to come over the next 90 minutes, rumbling, "Milk is the breakfast of choice here. In fact, it's the ONLY choice!" Earth skips around the globe, checking in on baby animals worldwide while adhering to a structure that seems to be based loosely on changing seasons and global water flow. (I think.) The clumsy editing and folksy narration anthropomorphize the animals, while also making it impossible for any coherent narrative to take form—making the film surprisingly tedious. And let's not even get into the criminally melodramatic score, which occasionally achieves the impossible: overpowering the undeniably beautiful nature footage.
The most dismaying thing about Earth, though, is its complete unwillingness to engage with the topic of global warming. Sure, they'll show some pretty gnarly footage of a cheetah taking down a gazelle—slowed to resemble a near-erotic embrace—but God forbid they mention that the reason Daddy Polar Bear can't find any solid ice to stand on might have something to do with global freaking warming. Instead, James Earl Jones treats us to a deceptively benign explanation: "Each year as our planet warms," polar ice becomes thinner. It's a disappointing copout—and what do you know? The same thing can be said about Earth.