Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Brother Bear

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
8 out of 10
Extras Rating:
9 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: G

Starring:
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)

Special Features:
Fully Animated Outtakes - Exclusive to the DVD!

Deleted Scenes - Including A Funny New Character

Audio Commentary by Rutt and Tuke

2 Exciting New Games

All-New Song By Phil Collins, "Fishing Song"

Paths Of Discovery: The Making Of Brother Bear

"Look Through My Eyes" Music Video Featuring Phil Collins

Sing Along Songs

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
"Family Friendly" Aspect Ratio (1.66:1) Enhanced for 16x9 Televisions
THX Certified
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish And French Language Tracks
Running Time: 85 Minutes

Synopsis:
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.

The Movie:
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, "Look Through My Eyes," is memorable as well.

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 watch to the very end of the movie, you'll see a funny joke about the fish from the film.

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.

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. 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.

The Extras:
The extras included on this DVD are spread between the two discs. The kid-oriented ones are on one disc while the rest are on the widescreen disc. The menus are fully animated with the original character's voices making jokes while you wait to make your selection. It's kind of fun to sit and listen to them talk. A nice additional feature is that the running time for each extra is shown when you highlight it on the menu. Here are the other highlights:

Fully Animated Outtakes The credits of this movie had a number of amusing outtakes. Here in the extras, they have a whole new batch of them. Some are pretty lame, like shots of Denahi falling or tripping. Some are kind of brutal, like Kenai throwing Koda into the camera and breaking the lens. Others are quite amusing, like the mammoths stomping a chipmunk, Kenai getting a silly face painting, and other things. If you liked the outtakes in the movie, you'll like this.

Deleted Scenes There were three deleted scenes included in the extras. One showed an alternate version of Kenai telling Koda he killed his mother. Another showed a funny scene between the moose and the bears where Kenai begs Koda to show him to the mountain. It was actually pretty funny and I wondered why it was cut from the film. The final cut scene shows a spastic squirrel that runs into Kenai just after he's turned into a bear. Initially terrified of Kenai, the squirrel soon becomes upset that he refuses to eat him. I thought the squirrel was French-Canadian at first, but he wasn't. (It would have been a good idea, though.) The clip also features Grizz, an older, bigger bear that originally took the place of Koda. They eventually opted for cute and fuzzy over big and burly, but the early version of the character is seen here (and elsewhere in the extras). As a side note, all of these deleted scenes are shown in rough pencil animation or storyboards.

Audio Commentary by Rutt and Tuke This is easily one of the funniest audio commentaries I've ever heard. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas provide the commentary for the entire movie in character. They have all sorts of hilarious comments and make jokes throughout the film. If you normally skip audio commentaries, this is one not to be missed. Even if you didn't like Brother Bear, this commentary makes watching it a lot of fun. You can also watch it in a sort of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" format where the characters are seen in silhouette.

2 Exciting New Games The first of the two games is a puzzle game. Some bones are mixed up and you must put them back together. Once you successfully do that, it shows what animal it came from and there's a brief documentary about the creature. In the second game you answer a series of questions and it tells you what your totem is. The questions seem to go on forever and may make your kid bored. (My daughter ended up being a wolf.)

All-New Song By Phil Collins, "Fishing Song" This song was originally intended for the scene where the bears are shown at the Salmon Run. It was eventually replaced by the song "Welcome". The song is also accompanied by early rough animation showing the bears doing all sorts of fishing tricks. It's not nearly as good as "Welcome", but it was amusing and went well with the animation.

Paths Of Discovery: The Making Of Brother Bear This is a really nice 45 minute documentary on the making of the movie. There are interviews with all of the cast and crew including Phil Collins and Tina Turner. You'll learn about the early inspirations for the story and the different changes made to it along the way. Interestingly, the creators repeatedly sing the praises of Michael Eisner and Roy Disney pops in occasionally to say how great Brother Bear is. It's kind of ironic in light of current events. Otherwise, it's a very in-depth and interesting look at the making of the film.

"Look Through My Eyes" Music Video Featuring Phil Collins This is a live action music video showing Phil Collins singing the song. Clips from the movie play in the background. It"s a good song, so it's an enjoyable music video.

Sing Along Songs You can sing along with some of the Brother Bear songs as the words appear on the bottom of the screen. Some kids will enjoy this.

The Bottom Line:
Brother Bear is well worth adding to your DVD collection if you have children or if you are an animation fan. Adults may find it fun to check out thanks to Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas.

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