Disney’s latest animated feature stays true to the classic mold
I would hate to meet the person who isn’t affected by Disney’s animated films. Skip the typical ice water; those resistant must have embalming fluid navigating their cruel veins. I would contend that Brother Bear‘s target audience of children are the only ones truly capable of delivering an honest review of the film. Or at the very least an adult who considers that children’s films deserve an aesthetic license away from the skeptical world most adults inhabit.
The film begins with three Native American brothers facing down a bear in the spectacular, frozen environs of the distant past. One brother falls to his death, while one, Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), vows revenge and kills the creature he holds responsible. At this juncture, Kenai undergoes a mystical transformation in which he is returned to the earth’s surface in the guise of a bear.
With his change, the animation blossoms radically into a wider spectrum of striking, vivid colors, perhaps insinuating a more pastoral perspective taken by the bear than by mankind’s industrious eyes. Kenai gradually comes to understand nature’s fabric reinforcing and embracing all.
Aided by the recently orphaned bear cub Koda (Jeremy Suarez), Kenai then journeys to the peak cradled by the northern lights, where he may or may not be able to regain his human form.
Directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker are wise to inject comic characters that win over an audience regardless of age. In Brother Bear, it’s the moose brothers Rutt (Rick Moranis) and Tuke (Dave Thomas) delivering their SCTV Mackenzie Brothers shtick by way of the animal kingdom, replete with the requisite Canadian “eh?” concluding every statement.
Brother Bear breaks virtually no new ground, yet it is difficult to ignore its sincerity and playfulness. It’s a lesson of karmic environmentalism, where not one living thing is granted prominence over the other, nor given free license to take life. The story delivers its message with genuine heart, so much so that it is hard not to be moved. Phil Collins’ soundtrack contributions, with all their bombast and clichés as intrusive as a rectal thermometer, can’t even sour the general goodwill of this film.