Brother Bear


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Joaquin Phoenix as Kenai (voice)
Jeremy Suarez as Koda (voice)
Jason Raize as Denahi (voice)
Rick Moranis as Rutt (voice)
Dave Thomas as Tuke (voice)
D.B. Sweeney as Sitka (voice)
Joan Copeland as Tanana (voice)
Michael Clarke Duncan as Tug (voice)
Harold Gould as Old Denahi (voice)
Paul Christie as Ram #1 (voice)
Daniel Mastrogiorgio as Ram #2 (voice)
Estelle Harris as Old Lady Bear (voice)
Greg Proops as Male Lover Bear (voice)
Pauley Perrette as Female Lover Bear (voice)
Darko Cesar as Foreign Croatian Bear (voice)

Great music from Phil Collins and a couple of familiar moose make Brother Bear an animated film worth checking out with the whole family.

Kenai, Denahi, and Sitka are three Native American brothers living in the Great North at a time when mammoths still lived. Eager to prove himself a man, Kenai is hot headed, immature, impatient, and irresponsible. When a bear steals some fish he left out, Kenai impulsively chases after the bear to kill it. However, when Kenai finds himself outmatched by the bear, it’s up to his brothers to save him. Unfortunately, Denahi is killed in the process.

Now thirsty for revenge, Kenai again sets out to kill the bear against his surviving brother’s wishes. When he does kill the animal, something strange happens. The spirit of his older brother magically turns Kenai into a bear. Now seeing the world from new eyes, Kenai must travel through the wilderness to a magical mountain to be turned human again. However, to do so he must get help from the very bears he hates.

A small cub named Koda latches on to Kenai and they begin their journey, but things take a turn for the worse when Sitka begins chasing them, believing that the bear (now Kenai) has killed his other brother.

Brother Bear is rated G.

What Worked:
Though computers have been dominating animated films these days, Brother Bear shows that there’s still a place for hand drawn animation. The northern wilderness scenes are absolutely beautiful. The backgrounds are stunning pieces of artwork that really set the tone for the movie and they capture the majesty of the setting. I’m not sure computers could have captured the looks as well as these paintings.

Phil Collins returns to Disney after his wonderful work on Tarzan. I thought his work on Tarzan was extraordinary and I think he’s done an excellent job on Brother Bear as well. I think the music from Tarzan was a bit better, but I guarantee you’ll find yourself humming tunes from Brother Bear days after you’ve seen the film. The opening song featuring Tina Turner entitled Great Spirits is one of the best of the movie. I love Tina, but I’m not sure her voice is best suited for the song. However, she still does a fine job. On My Way is also a toe tapper while the song from the credits is one you can probably expect to hear on the pop radio stations (I can’t remember it’s title at the moment).

The entire voice cast handles their jobs well, but it’s the two moose that really stand out. In a bit of no-brainer casting, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas play the Canadian moose Rutt and Tuke. They provide much of the comic relief of the film. While they seem to improvise a bit, they never really cut loose like you hope they would. Still, I can’t think of anyone better to play these characters.

Other background characters in the film provide a lot of great gags. Two rams butting heads and yelling at echoes offer some laughs. A couple of chipmunks having a disagreement provide some of the first chuckles of the story. The film wraps up with a blooper reel during the credits and if you stay to the very end of the movie, you’ll see a funny joke about the fish from the film.

Brother Bear has a lot going for it, but I think you’ll find the music and the moose the two things you’ll walk away remembering.

What Didn’t Work:
Unfortunately, Brother Bear’s story is pretty much by the numbers. You can see most of what’s going to happen from a mile away. About the only surprise in the film is the ending. It’s not quite what I expected, but if you think about the Disney merchandising machine, you can probably figure out what happens.

The film also didn’t ever have me laughing out loud. As much as I love Moranis and Thomas, most of their antics only left me with a few chuckles. And besides them and the cute little bear, most of the other characters in the film weren’t memorable.

The film also starts out with a smaller picture. When Kenai is turned into a bear, it suddenly expands to fill the full screen. It’s so subtle that I didn’t notice it till halfway through the film. However, it didn’t add much effect to the story either. I realize what the creators were trying to do, but I didn’t think it worked.

The Bottom Line:
Overall, kids will enjoy the animation, adults will enjoy the music, and Brother Bear ends up being a great film to take the family to. It’s definitely worth checking out.