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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Disneyear: Brother Bear (2003)

Like Treasure Planet, I saw Brother Bear when I was younger and I'll be honest here, I had mostly forgotten about. I hear the film didn't do that well when it first came out. I don't hear a lot of people talking about it much to this day, so that may explain why I remember this film so little. In fact, I often heard that it's considered as one of Disney's worst films as the years went by. To my surprise, it's the lowest-rated Disney film on Rotten Tomatoes, with only a 38% fresh rating. I certainly didn't remember the film itself being that bad, but it sort of made me a little bit weary when I saw this was the next film for Disneyear.  It's not the film I wanted to watch the least (trust me, that'll come later!), but I wasn't expecting that much from this film when I sat down and saw it again for the first time in years. The result: it actually surprised me. Keeping with Disney tradition, the stuff that's great in this film is great, but there's still a big reason why it didn't do so hot when it was first released. Well, let's put a little light on the subject today as I look at Brother Bear.

A long time ago, three Inuit brothers named Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), Denahi (Jason Raize), and Sitka (D.B. Sweeney) return to their village so that Kenai can receive his sacred totem, an item that will guide him to be a man. Kenai gets a little upset to find that his is a bear representing love. After that, a bear manages to steal some salmon he and his brothers caught and Kenai recklessly goes after it. During the fight, Sitka gives his life to save Kenai's and Denahi's, but the bear survives. Vengeful, Kenai goes after the bear and kills it on a mountain top. Angered by this act of unnecessary violence, Sitka's spirit arrives and transforms his brother into a bear in order to learn a lesson. The next day, Kenai finds out he's a bear and gets advice from the shaman woman of his village to go back to the mountain top in order to change back. He tries to get help from some animals like two moose brothers Rutt and Tuke (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. By the way, if you get this casting reference, you are awesome!) but they are less than helpful. He later gets caught in a trap and is saved by a talkative cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez) who got separated from his mother and is on his way to a salmon run which happens to be next to where Kenai needs to go. The two agree to travel together and constantly bump into Denahi, who thinks that Kenai as a bear is the bear who he thinks killed Sitka and his presumably dead brother. They at last make it to the salmon run, where Kenai finds out on accident that the bear he killed as a man was Koda's mother. He tells Koda the truth later, but Koda runs off in grief, leaving Kenai on his own. Denahi confronts Kenai on the mountain, but their fight is intervened by Koda who steals Denahi's hunting pike. Kenai goes to Koda's aid out of love, prompting Sitka to appear and turn him back into a human, much to Denahi and Koda's surprise. However, Kenai asks Sitka to transform him back into a bear so he can stay with Koda. Sitka complies, and Koda is reunited briefly with the spirit of his mother, before she and Sitka return to the Spirits. In the end, Kenai lives with the rest of the bears and gains his title as a man, through being a bear.

I'm going to be honest here: I was hooked on this film during the first 20 minutes. I liked these characters and I was getting into the mythology and the culture of the tribe (Which may or may not be correct). The whole time I was thinking, "By God! This is what Pocahontas should have been!" I was getting invested with what was going on. Even when Sitka dies, I was kind of hurt by that! And as Denahi is hunting for the bear who's really Kenai, he wants vengeance too. We could relate with this clause and sense the passion and love he has for his brother, hence why he's going to such violent measures for revenge. In a clever bit of writing, there's no villain, just a big misunderstanding. To be honest, it's a good setup! I was honestly surprised to say the least!

These three are great together!
But... it's after Kenai turns into a bear is where the film goes downhill. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with the hero turning into a bear to learn a lesson. So far, the film was handled so well that I wanted to see what the film will do with this scenario! What happens then is about as predictable, lame, and dull as you can imagine. Like when Koda mentions that he got separated from his mother I immediately knew what had happened. It's also kind of dumbfounding that Kenai never figures it out until the end! It really takes the suspense out of it.

Trust me, he'll change that face in the end!
When the animals have to talk, it's pretty annoying. What's odd for me is the people have a timeless language while the animals talk more like modern day people. They say phrases like "dude" or "I spy" and they even "pinky swear". Sorry guys, but that kind of sucks the magic and timelessness out of it. Speaking of talking, Koda can be annoying at parts. Despite the non-stop chatting, Jeremy Suarez doesn't do a bad job with acting for this character. He does emote well, but the character rarely has a quiet moment. The two moose were ok, but mostly pointless.

"We'll show ya how to get free beer, eh?"
The music wasn't bad at first. I heard Phil Collins did the music for this film. The first song was really cool and I was getting into it. After that, the songs got annoying fast. Like with Tarzan, I didn't think the songs were that bad, but having Phil Collins sing what the characters are thinking is just annoying to me. I didn't think it ruined the film... until the last song where Kenai confesses to Koda and we hear Phil Collins singing to us how we should feel.... Good lord! Really? You couldn't just use the film score? You needed to have Phil Collins sing "This is how you should feel!"?!? *sigh* Well, here's what it should have been like. I took a deleted scene from the DVD and put it here. I wish they just went with this. It's honestly much more heartfelt than what's in the final film. Hope you enjoy it.

So with the dull, predictable plot, modern-day references, and Phil Collins songs, you'd think I'd hate this film. Well, not exactly. Like I said before, the story has a good setup. It had a great beginning and a great ending. But the middle of the film is where all the problems lie. To be honest, it could have been much worse, like the next film I have to review. But talk about being so close and yet so far! Maybe with some rewriting, it could have been great. And like I said, it's cool to see some culture in a Disney film. So yes, the beginning and end are wonderful, the middle can suck it. There's a slim chance that I might watch the film again, but I am content I saw it at least once. Brother Bear isn't as bad as Rotten Tomatoes says, so hopefully you can take what I said, look up the trailer, and see if this is up your alley. With that said, take a look and see for yourself.

1 comment:

Lisa @ BATC said...

I love brother bear and i remember watching it with my 3 kids when it first came out