Brother Bear (2003)

Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix) is the impulsive younger brother in a tribe of Native Americans living in Northern America. Where exactly? Well, I don’’t know but someplace where Kenai and his brothers can surf wicked glaciers dude. Kenai wants to be accepted into his people more than anything. Too bad he’s a screw-up. Some fish he leaves out attracts a bear that inadvertently kills Kenai’’s older, wiser brother. Kenai swears revenge against the bear and kills it. But lo, this upsets the spirits of nature and they turn Kenai into a bear himself. Oh the irony. Kenai must learn all about coping in the animal kingdom while looking after a young cub Koda, whose looking for his lost mother. Take a guess what happened to his mother. No, seriously, go on and guess. I’’ll sit here and wait. Done? Okay then.

The story of Brother Bear has as much life as a bearskin rug. Once again we have a hotheaded jerk that walks a mile in someone else’’s paws and learns valuable life lessons through their bizarre transformation. The only thing this movie is missing is Rob Schneider in the main role.

I don’’t know what the makers of Brother Bear were intending. Is this for young kids? Well there is endless slapstick and cutesy woodland creatures. However, the first part of the story is quite dark and all about family loss. Great way to start a family film huh? With some family killings? If this is also intended for kids I’’m pretty sure they’’ll be bored at the preachier moments talking about animal cruelty and tolerance.

Disney once again plays it too safe and by trying to please everybody they end up likely pleasing nobody. This is 20,000 leagues below the artful Finding Nemo. Why does it seem like when the Diz does things in-house they’re so adverse to risk? What the audience is left with is a formulaic piece of fluff that’s only memorable attribute is being extraordinarily ordinary.

The ending is so bad that it’s beyond belief, so allow me to spoil it. Kenai transforms back into a human after he’s learned his valuable lesson. He then chooses to remain a bear to watch after Koda. What? Why don’t they turn Koda into a boy? Or turn everyone into bears? Or why not turn everyone in the audience into people watching a different, better movie?

The animation of Brother Bear is clunky and awkward amidst a crayola-colored backdrop. The visuals often seem drab or like the templates for a better movie. The human characters appear so stocky. The best element of Brother Bear is the voice work of Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis doing a moose variation on their McKenzie brothers.

Phil Collins provides the painfully monotonous pop claptrap that’s cued whenever a montage is needed. How the hell did this man win an Oscar for Best Song over the likes of Aimee Mann, Sarah McLachlan, and the creators of South Park? The best way to describe Collins’ collection of unmotivated ditties is that they’re like soup for the ears: runny, bland, forgettable, and dreadfully unsatisfying. If you can’t tell, I don’t really care for soup (“Soup is too a food!”).

Brother Bear is yet another half-hearted effort from the Mouse House. The story, animation, and voice acting are all sub par. It’s the same sing and dance al over again, except this time it’s in the woods, and this time the sing and dance is your senile grandfather with his pants around his ankles doing the jitterbug. Yeah. You get the idea.

Nate’s Grade: C

About natezoebl

One man. Many movies. I am a cinephile (which spell-check suggests should really be "epinephine"). I was told that a passion for movies was in his blood since I was conceived at a movie convention. While scientifically questionable, I do remember a childhood where I would wake up Saturday mornings, bounce on my parents' bed, and watch Siskel and Ebert's syndicated TV show. That doesn't seem normal. At age 17, I began writing movie reviews and have been unable to stop ever since. I was the co-founder and chief editor at (2007-2014) and now write freelance. I have over 1400 written film reviews to my name and counting. I am also a proud member of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) since 2012. In my (dwindling) free time, I like to write uncontrollably. I wrote a theatrical genre mash-up adaptation titled "Our Town... Attacked by Zombies" that was staged at my alma mater, Capital University in the fall of 2010 with minimal causalities and zero lawsuits. I have also written or co-written sixteen screenplays and pilots, with one of those scripts reviewed on industry blog Script Shadow. Thanks to the positive exposure, I am now also dipping my toes into the very industry I've been obsessed over since I was yea-high to whatever people are yea-high to in comparisons.

Posted on November 4, 2003, in 2003 Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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