You probably forgot this was ever a Disney movie didn’t you? Indeed, Brother Bear heralds from that period in the Disney canon where nobody gave a sh*t. Atlantis: The Lost Empire anyone? However, that said, I thought it was perhaps due time to give this movie chance and, in the wake of the release of The Master, revisit a classic Joaquin Phoenix performance.
j/k It’s totally sub-par.
Pic from Brother Bear. j/k (again) It’s Joaquin looking like a man-bear.
To be honest, the main recommendation to watch this movie is for the cute animal things. Sometimes cute animal things are enough for one person and this movie does feature some absolutely charming pastiches of animal behaviour, from fighting goats to geese flying in formation. Also, I’m really sorry to be laughing at you Canada, but the bumbling, sweet Canadian-talking moose Rutt and Tuke kind of made the movie worth watching, with their bickering providing some actual laugh-out loud moments for viewers.
Although I couldn’t really bring myself to say this movie is badly made, it really feels like the Disney Studios are just going through the motions with Brother Bear. Everything about it is solid, from the animation to the vocal performances, but nothing is inspiring or memorable. There’s a few weepy, sentimental moments, but they feel so forced and manufactured, like this entire movie was made on auto-pilot while the animators watched reruns of Friends in the background (there was a time when this was a thing that happened, remember). For example, the whole relationship between the main characters Kenai and Koda is a little too screenwriting 101, running with the typical “I work on my own ,man. Oh, fine, let’s team up. URGH. Oh wait, we’ve gradually learnt to be friends and I’m going to step in and help you at the last minute”. I know family animation doesn’t tend to break the boundaries with this kind of stuff, but the whole way their storyline pans out is just too straight and predictable to find any entertainment in.
Anything that works only really works because it’s worked before, like some kind of lazy patchwork quilt of animation. The idea that the characters are all watched over by the Great Spirits, and the need to respect nature and its intentions is a path well-tread by the Lion King and Pocahontas. Sure, it’s a lovely idea to instil in kids, but maybe they could have given it a little break and tried something new here.
More specifically, Disney is a massive fan of people falling off cliffs or other high objects, but specifically cliffs. The Lion King is an obvious choice, but there’s also Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, 101 Dalmatians, Beauty and the Beast, Hunchback of Notre Dame etc. etc. Now, one cliff incident would have been totally excusable as being part of the Disney canon; it’s the kind of non-gruesome demise that conveniently doesn’t traumatise children. However, people seem to be constantly falling off cliffs in this movie, or nearly falling off cliffs, or falling near cliffs. There’s just a limit to the amount of cliff-falling one person can take.
D’awww craaaaap. SOMETHING IS ABOUT TO GO DOWN.
I’m going to have to recommend one beer to survive the soundtrack. Now, we all love Phil Collins and love air drumming to “You’ll be in My Heart”, but having Tina Turner cover a Phil Collins song makes it sound like the bears should have lasers and dry ice coming out their asses. Only Phil Collins can say banal things like “we’re brothers all the same” and get away with it. On the other hand, “On My Way” is admittedly a great Collins effort; but the way the movie segues into it, with little bear Koda just announcing he’s going to start singing then Phil just muscling him out to finish the song himself? Awkward, just plain awkward.
Although it still retains the characteristic charm of any Disney animation, Brother Bear really falls short in comparison to its siblings; feeling stiff, automatic, and unimaginative.
Take a Drink: for every incongruous Phil Collins song
Take a Drink: every time a moose says “eh” (PREPARE TO GET SMASHED)
Take a Drink: every time someone falls off a cliff