Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray Review

In the 2003 animated Disney feature BROTHER BEAR we follow Kenai, a wreckless Inuit boy who wants to prove his bravery and strength to his tribe and to his older brothers. When Kenai’s careless attitude causes a bear to wander to their village and eat their fish, instead of rightfully taking the blame, Kenai goes after the bear. Even though he is successful in killing the bear, he loses his eldest brother and gets transformed into a bear in the process.

Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez in Brother Bear

That’s right folks. The Inuit spirits turned Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix) into a bear. Now in the form of his only living brother’s enemy, Kenai must hide from those he loves and figure out how to adapt at his new lifestyle. Thanks to the help of a young, motherless cub, Koda (Jeremy Suarez), Kenai slowly accepts being a bear during his pursuit to reach the peak of the mountain to ask the spirits to change him back to his human form.

Jeremy Suarez, Joaquin Phoenix in Brother Bear

As much as I enjoy animated flicks, there was something about this picture that did not sit well with me. Poor dialogue? Boring script? Generic animation? It blows my mind that a seasoned veteran like Joaquin Phoenix could stomach voicing this flat tale. Everything Kenai did was irritating and frustrating.  The extreme carelessness, selfishness and prideful nature were over the top and these unattractive characteristics did not result in large enough life lessons that we can learn from as we do in most Disney classics.  The only saving grace in this film was Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas recreating their STRANGE BREW characters, but this time as Canadian moose, Tuke and Rutt.  They added a bit of that silly humor that was sorely lacking in this picture.

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For whatever reason, the decision makers at Disney craved more from Kenai and Koda so they threw together another mediocre animated picture and brought us BROTHER BEAR 2.  This time instead of loss, the story focuses on love. Nita (Mandy Moore) is preparing for her wedding day but is bound to another from her past. Who? You guessed it:  Kenai, the bear-boy!  Together, Kenai (Patrick Dempsey) and Nita must visit a sacred spot and burn the necklace that unites the duo.  And, the moose are back – also looking for love.

Mandy Moore, Patrick Dempsey in Brother Bear 2

With even more voice talent in the sequel, I’m convinced that Disney gave the actors an offer they couldn’t refuse to participate in this predictable tale. Guessing who voiced the assorted characters might have been the most entertaining element to watching BROTHER BEAR 2, because without that distraction I would have been bored out of my moose-loving mind.  The complete lack of creativity in the storytelling was upsetting.  Pulling ideas from Disney’s hit film, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, seeing Nita’s betrothed chase down Kenai was very similar to Gaston challenging Beast. Even the final scene of BROTHER BEAR 2 was reminiscent of when Beast transforms as the last petal falls.

Disney proved people transforming into bears can work in film, just look at the recent Pixar picture, BRAVE. But, at least with BRAVE jokes were consistent, characters were easy to like and care for and the story was perfectly animated.  But, the creative team failed with both BROTHER BEAR and BROTHER BEAR 2. Perhaps I’m too picky and cynical for the target demographic.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Audio (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1): Even though the script was poor, the audio was crisp and clear.

Video (2.35:1, 1.66:1): Both BROTHER BEAR and BROTHER BEAR 2 had sharp pictures.

BROTHER BEAR Special Features:

Rutt and Tuke’s Commentary: The Canadian moose duo (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas in character) provide some laughs as they comment throughout the film.

Paths of Discovery: The Making of Brother Bear(44:00): This is an intense feature. You can watch all four segments Beginnings, Mirror to the World, Welcome to the Family, and Music and Songs with the help of a play all button. These segments break down even more! Lots of cast and crew sharing typical “making of” information.

Mandy Moore, Jeremy Suarez, Patrick Dempsey in Brother Bear 2

Deleted Scenes (11:00):  The three deleted scenes are introduced by directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker. Two of the three were rightfully cut. I laughed out loud  at the squirrel deleted scene. It would have been superfluous to the story but it was a bit of comic relief that might have added some punch to the story.

Koda’s Outtakes (3:00): This animated gag-reel was semi-funny, but I’ve seen better (See: MONSTER’S INC. closing credits).

“Fishing Song” Never-Before-Heard Song (4:00)

“Transformation” Song with Original Phil Collins Lyrics (2:00)

“On My Way” Sing-Along Song (4:00)

“Look Through My Eyes” Music Video (4:00)

Bear Legends: Native American Tales (3:00): This feature highlights Native American legends and tales.

Making Noise: The Art of Foley (3:00): A fun look at sound design.

Art Review (10:00): The creative crew walks viewers through the process of getting the animation from an idea to the big screen. Lots of details.

BROTHER BEAR 2 Special Features:

Behind the Music of Brother Bear 2 (8:00): Producers and other key players in the BROTHER BEAR 2 team discuss the music from the movie.

OVERALL 1.5
VERDICT:
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