Br'er Kevin, of the Rooster Totem
Oh boy! It's only a couple of weeks until Pixar's "Brave" comes out on DVD! Now there was a movie about being magically transformed into a bear against your will that I would like to see again. This one, not so much. I didn't find it particularly annoying, but...well, if I were a hacky newspaper movie critic, I might go so far as to use the phrase "Aurora BORE-ealis."
Really, it's pleasant enough but just not engaging. It's like in Dinosaur, where I get what's going on but I'm just not captivated by it at all. At least it looks better than Dinosaur. And the humor is not as unfunny.
It's hard to describe what exactly it supposed to be going on emotionally through Kenai's* journey. First he's annoyed by Koda, and if you know your movies you know he'll warm up to him eventually. And he does, through a music montage. And you think, well, that was sooner than I thought. But then they get in a fight again. And now Kenai hates Koda. But they make up quickly after looking at a painting. Are you guys friends or not? Make up your mind and stick to it! Then there's the "yeah um I kinda may have sort of murdered your mom sorry about that" speech and Koda is understandably upset, but gets over it surprisingly easily. Man, he is the KING of forgiveness.
Now for my biggest nitpick about the alleged lesson of the movie. Kenai learns about looking at things from the bear's point of view instead of seeing them as murderous monsters or whatever, and that's all fine and dandy sure. But in the salmon run chapter, we see the bears killing and eating fish, and doing in such delight that the young ones laugh while making hand puppets out of the fish's heads! What kind of horror show is that? I know that there is a Brother Bear 2 and I have no idea what it's about, but if the filmmakers have any respect for addressing hypocrisy, it had better be the tale of a young bear who callously plays with fish corpse heads before he is spiritually transformed into a salmon. He would then realize who the real monster is, and so forth and such and yada.
Now to talk about Rutt and Tuke. I'm not crazy about them as they're written in the actual movie. But man, I have a soft spot for their DVD commentary! Maybe it's because I'm partial to cornball ad-libbed humor (I wonder how much of it is off-the-cuff? I hope most) like that, and also the very idea that they got through the whole thing on consistent steam. Some of it is dumb, but some is funny and plays to my dumb-pun sensibilities. Such as:
"Well if you go to the liquor control board of Ontario, they have wine and spirits. And you can talk to the spirits."
Considering that they managed to "riff" a family-friendly movie with only family-friendly jokes, Thomas and Moranis did a bang-up job at that commentary track. I'm gonna go ahead and say I prefer the movie with that audio track on. After all, you still get the beautiful imagery and animation, but with better jokes. I've listened to it twice (once years ago, before I had even seen the movie proper) and would listen to it again. And I'm slightly proud to say it.
Favorite character: Hearing Greg Proops talk uncharacteristically lovey-dovey was, for me, the funniest part of the movie.
Least necessary character: The chipmunk is supposed to present this idea that Kenai should be surprised to see a squirrel terrified of him because he doesn't realize he's a bear yet, but the chipmunk would freak out the same, maybe even moreso, at a hunter, wouldn't it?
Trivia: Another Pixar comparison. That I Spy bit where Rutt or Tuke (who cares which is which) "spies" a tree over and over sure is similar to Dory's "small and orange" bit from Finding Nemo, isn't it? Finding Nemo was released first, but only six months prior, so accusations of plagiarism might be stretching it. But I do think it worked better in Finding Nemo, since the joke there was that Dory was instantly forgetful and the ocean was mostly empty where they were too. In Brother Bear, Rutt/Tuke is just being...stupid? Or intentionally annoying?
Overall: Eh, eh?
*Does Kenai mean anything relating to his character? If not, it's a wasted opportunity that the guy whose totem is an eagle wasn't named Kenai instead, thereby making a pun on "keen eye." Ah well.
I'm going to be uncharacteristically concise for this one.
Brother Bear looks beautiful. The music isn't bad, but it's also not nearly as memorable as Collins' previous work in Tarzan. The voice acting was good considering what they were given. I love Rick Moranis, but the rest of the movie doesn't really send me.
Oh and by the way, Koda was way more annoying than cute. However, he did look really cute, and that sort of bothers me because his mother (for whom we are supposed to have sympathy) is by a wide margin the ugliest bear of all. I get that you want her to look monstrous for the first act, but couldn't you gussy her up a little for the sentimental climax? Ugh.
Favorite Character: I dunno. Uh. Silent Mammoth busses.
Least Necessary Character: Oh, let's say... um... Estelle Harris
Overall: I wasn't completely bored out of my mind, but I don't really remember all that much about it now that it's over. At least it looked pretty. Would it be wrong to suspect that it was one of those caretaker movies that's put into production just to make sure the animators and clean-up crew still know what they're doing?