I remember back in 2003 when I saw trailers for Disney’s Brother Bear my first thought was: “Man, Disney’ really gone downhill.” Outside of Lilo & Stitch I hadn’t really been impressed by one of their offerings since Mulan in 1998. Thus, I avoided seeing this film as to prevent my view of Disney films being tainted any more than it had after watching the previous years Treasure Planet.
Well, some things, it seems, just can’t be avoided, as here I am reviewing this Blu-ray release.
Set in early days of man, a young Inuit boy, Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), is always getting in trouble. When a bear wanders into their village because he didn’t tie up the food properly, his older brother dies driving the bear away. Determined to get revenge for his brother’s death he sets out and kills the bear. It turns out this isn’t want his brother would have wanted and his spirit returns and turns Kenai into a bear to teach him a lesson.
After becoming a bear Kenai befriends two moose, Rutt and Tuck, voiced by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, who are just playing their Strange Brew personas. He also meets a young cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez). Kenai and Koda become the best of friends and Kenai learns a whole bunch of lessons along they way.
Disney is no stranger to telling messed up stories, from the death of Bambi’s mother to Simba’s dad in The Lion King, but Brother Bear might just be the most messed up of them all. Seriously, I would have to think twice about showing this film to a kid. It turns out that the bear that Kenai killed was Koda’s mother, and the scene where he admits as much to the young cub is among the most upsetting scenes Disney has ever animated. And in the end they still end up being best friends. What kind of message is that to send to the children? It’s okay to be friends with the person who killed your mother?
The voice acting in this film isn’t’ the best. Moranis and Thomas are pretty entertaining, but not as laugh out loud hilarious as they should be. I know Joaquin Phoenix is an amazing actor, but he just doesn’t sell it here. Maybe he didn’t know what to do being locked in sound booth, but this the flattest performance he’s maybe ever given.
Then we have Brother Bear 2 (2006) wherein Phoenix is replaced by Patrick Dempsey, which just doesn’t work. Mornais and Thomas are back as the wise cracking moose and Mandy Moore joins the cast as Nita, a young Inuit girl that Kenai fell in love with as a child. Now they they are grown, and Kenai is a bear, Nita wants to get married, but the spirits won’t let her, her heart is tied to Kenai. So she sets out on a quest to find Kenai and burn a talisman he made her that represents their love. Of course long the journey they rekindle that love from their childhood and you can pretty much figure out where it goes from there.
The animation isn’t bad in part 2, but it’s not nearly as good as part 1. Still compared to some other direct to video sequels Disney has churned out, this one is pretty good.
Brother Bear isn’t no where near a great Disney film, but it’s not the worst either. Still it came during a dark time for them when they made a bunch of sub par films. The sequel is a little worse and presented together they make a Blu-ray release that only the most avid of Disney-files needs to own.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 and 1.78:1 respectively and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Part 1 looks fantastic if nothing else, and part 2 looks pretty good for direct to video release.
You get the same stuff that appeared on previous DVD releases: Part 1 includes a Making Of (44 min.), Deleted Scenes (11 min.), Outtakes (3 min.), which are pretty funny, Bear Legends (3 min.) Making Noise (3 min.) a few different songs and a Commentary track wherein Moranis and Thomas play their Rutt and Tuke characters. So basically you have the McKenzie Brothers cracking jokes about the film, this is the best way to watch the movie. Part 2 has a behind the music (8 min.) featurette.
While I wasn’t expecting to like either film, Brother Bear and it’s sequel proved better than I thought they would be. Still, I find myself hard pressed to recommend these films to anyone other than the most hardcore of Disney fans who must own every Disney film. And with just a dark story, I certainly wouldn’t show this to younger kids.
Disney presents Brother Bear. Written by: Tab Murphy, Lorne Cameron et al. Directed by: Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker. Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas and Michael Clarke Duncan. Running time: 85 min. Rating: G.
Disney presents Brother Bear 2. Written by: Rich Burns. Directed by: Ben Gluck. Starring: Patrick Dempsey, Mandy Moore, Jeremy Suarez, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas and Michael Clarke Duncan. Running time: 74 min. Rating: G. Released on DVD: March 12, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.