Brother Bear


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Brother Bear
The Masked Reviewer

The latest animated movie from Disney has all the elements you might expect from a Disney film.  Good artwork, soon-to-be-nominated-for-Academy-Award(tm)-songs, lots of famous voices, and an important lesson about life.

But the Masked Reviewer will first talk about another thing you can expect from a Disney film: a theater full of kids.

What's the best thing about going to a movie in a movie theater, instead of staying in the comfort of your own home?  Is it the smell of the popcorn?  Is it the comfy chairs?  Is it the giant screen?  Or, is it that extra something one gets from being in a crowd of people?  Certainly, a horror movie is more horrifying when people scream.  And comedies are funnier when everyone laughs.  Action movies are more exciting as people cheer the hero.  But, what about kids' movies?

The Masked Reviewer was surrounded by small, excited children during Brother Bear.  For those of you who don't know, small, excited children can often be jumpy, squirmy, and loud.  The Masked Reviewer was prepared for this.  After all, the movie is for them. 

But one child in particular, who happened to be sitting directly behind the Masked Reviewer during this film, has inspired an interesting issue for discussion: when is it okay to beat other people's children?

Now, the Masked Reviewer is kidding, of course, because hitting children is wrong, especially with your car.  But this child, who was flanked by its mother and mother's friend, would not shut up during the movie.  Perhaps it was a bit slow (the child, not the movie).  Perhaps it didn't get out much.  But, after every line -- every single line -- the child would repeat the line, at the top of its lungs.  It had good lungs.  In ancient Britannia, that child would have been a shoe-in for Town Crier. 

Ever notice how annoying it is when someone repeats back everything you say?  Well, imagine it during a movie.  Non-stop.  Loud. 

Needless to say, the child drew the ire of many people in the theater.  Comments were made to the child's mother, who ignored them.  The child was climbing up on the seat, and the mother did nothing.  One patron turned around and asked very politely if the mother could ask the child to be "a bit more quiet", and the mother swatted the polite patron in the back of the head. 

Eventually the woman was asked to leave, and after throwing a shocked-and-offended fit (and saying the "bitch" word), she left. 

The point is that the child isn't really to blame.  It's just a kid.  It's the parent's fault.  What's with parents who get indignant when they're asked to keep their child from annoying everyone else?  Even other kids were making comments after the movie.  "That one kid was stupid!" and "Why was he saying everything?  Doesn't he know it's a movie and you don't do that in movies?" 

Maybe this mother didn't get out much and didn't care what anyone else thought.  Well, hopefully she won't go out again.  She's not doing a service to the child, who isn't learning how to behave in public. 

Anyway, yeah.  Brother Bear.  In the interest of not ruining anything for you, the next paragraph will feature information on a few of the voices.  It's not a secret, really, but some people (such as the Masked Reviewer) enjoy trying to recognize the voices without being told.  That is, when you can hear the voices over an annoying parrot-kid.  (Let it go...let it go....okay.)  If you don't want to see anything about the voices, skip the next paragraph and keep reading.

If you're reading this paragraph, then you don't mind knowing a bit about who did voices in the film.  The lead voice of Kenai took a while to recognize, but it's none other than the evil Gladiator star, Joaquin Phoenix.  Not to pick on the poor guy, but...his voice acting is quite possibly the worst in a Disney film in recent memory.  Ever hear a cartoon voice that sounded like someone reading a book report in junior high school?  He was rather flat and forced, and it takes you out of the movie a little bit at times.  Other voices include Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas (the former SCTV-er, not the former Wendy's Hamburger CEO) who revive their wacky Canadian hoser voices from Strange Brew.  It's nice to see that Disney is branching out in its selection of voice talent.  Cheech and Chong could be next.  Jeremy Suarez (a kid) plays the kid bear.  Notice that the kid bear doesn't repeat everything the other bears are saying at the top of his lungs in the movie.  Jeremy Suarez played Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s son in Jerry Maguire.

Being a Disney movie, there are also songs.  Tina Turner and Phil Collins are featured.  One can't help but notice that the songs seem...familiar.  They aren't old, but they sure sound like...oh...every other Disney film from the last few years. 

Which brings up an interesting point.  A lot of the film seems familiar.  The Lion King and Pocahontas and Tarzan all seem to have been used as a template for Brother Bear.  As a result, it feels very cookie-cutterish.  The story even seems familiar, even though it's not.

Some might notice that all animals are anthropomorphosized in the film, except for the fish that the bears eat.  There's a nice remedy to that in a little bonus clip at the very end of the credits, so if you see the film, be sure to stay for that (unless you're in a hurry, in which case, don't lose any sleep over it).

The last unusual thing about the movie is this.  A couple of the bears are drawn a little bit differently than the rest.  These bears have darker lips, which looked a bit unusual.  "Koda" and "Tug", in particular.  Perhaps not coincidentally, these two bears are voiced by black actors.  Did Disney intend to make brown bears black?  Or are they grizzly bears with darker lips than the other bears?  At least they didn't make the bears black bears, but still, it was a little bit strange. 

All in all, Brother Bear is okay.  The lead voice acting is weaker than it should have been.  They deal with serious issues in a feel-good way.  The animation and colors are beautiful at times.  The spiritualism was rather sappy.  There don't seem to be any bad consequences of bad actions, but is a kid's movie.  The biggest problem with the film is that it feels like it grew out of a bad pitch meeting: "Okay, we've covered all the historical and literary figures like Pocahontas and Tarzan and the Little Mermaid.  I want lots of talking animals, lots of funky mystical powers.  Where haven't we set a movie?  Jungle?  No.  Desert?  No.  Ocean?  No.  How about Canada?  Great.  And get Phil Collins to do some music just like that other one he did.  Great!  See you at the Oscars(tm)!"


Expectation from the Title: Not to be confused with the adult film, Brother Bare, about a nudist monk who discovers his vow of chastity was made a bit too hastily.

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  Talking bears are always funny.

The Pros: Animation sure is purty.

The Cons: Music seems re-hashed.  Story seems like a composite.  Voice acting uneven.  Attracts loud children with parents who won't supervise them.


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