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.
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
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 hey...it 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.