51 Days of Disney (Day 44): Brother Bear

Brother Bear follows the story of three brothers: Sitka, the eldest, Denahi, and Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), the youngest. The three brothers are out fishing for the village before Kenai’s manhood ceremony. At the manhood, each person of age receives a totem animal that represents a certain quality about them, and Kenai gets the bear of love, much to his chagrin. He thinks that bears are just thieves, and he feels his point is proven when a bear steals the fish that the brothers just caught because Kenai didn’t put them away properly.

He chases after the bear and his brothers chase after him and Sitka ends up getting killed in the process. Kenai seeks revenge on the bear and ends up killing it on the mystical mountain where the lights touch the earth and the Spirits decide to teach him a lesson by transforming into a bear. Denahi once again follows Kenai and sees him in his new bear form and thinks that it’s the bear that not only killed Sitka, but now killed Kenai.

When Kenai wakes up the next morning, he realizes that he is now a bear and meets up with 2 moose, Rutt (Rick Moranis) and Tuke, who try to warn him about a trap, but Kenai doesn’t listen and gets caught in it. His pride makes it so that he doesn’t want any help from Koda, a young bear cub, but eventually is tricked into getting help. Koda tells Kenai that he knows how to get to the mountain where the lights touch the earth and agrees to take him there in exchange for Kenai taking Koda to the Salmon Run. Koda hopes that he will be able to find his mother, whom he was separated from, at the Salmon Run, as all of the bears go to it. Kenai agrees and the two set off on an adventure of learning and growing.

The film was allegedly conceived as a retelling of King Lear, but very little of that original story treatment could even be perceived in what we eventually got. The characters besides Kenai and Koda really don’t have that much development, but the relationship that develops between the two bears is genuinely heartwarming and actually depressing at one point. One aspect of the film that manages to differentiate Brother Bear from it’s predecessors is the fact that the villain of the film is not actually a villain and the main character is not always the hero. The playing around with the concept of good and evil really helps strengthen the relatively weak story.

The film is occasionally visually stunning, especially whenever there are spirits present. The film actually visually changes when Kenai transforms. the colors become much more vibrant and the aspect ratio actually changes. Kenai’s transformation sequence is gorgeous to look at with colors changing all over the screen and the spirits of animals fading in and out of vision. The problem is that while it is obvious that they were trying to do something different, it feels very much like the transformation scene in Beauty and the Beast. Actually, the major problem with the film in general is that it feels like it’s rehashing a lot of content from other Disney films. The film plays out like a combination of Pocahontas, the Lion King, with a small amount of Beauty and the Beast and part of the theme from Hunchback of Notre Dame thrown into the mix for a little bit of extra flavour. The animation was done at the animation studio at Disney-MGM Studios and it is just as high quality as the previous films.

The music was done by Phil Collins and Mike Mancina, just like Tarzan. It’s a musical in the same style as Tarzan, with musical numbers not being sung by the characters, but unlike Tarzan, the music is rather average. Only a few of the songs in the film will really stick with you. The song from the movie that really stuck with me is “Welcome” but I think that it’s more because it was essentially the theme to the 50 Years of Magic celebration for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary than it was because it’s a really good song. “On My Way” is pretty good, but I honestly just found “Great Spirits” to be somewhat annoying, but that’s more because I don’t like Tina Turner’s voice than whether or not I like the song.

Brother Bear is a mediocre film as it really rehashes a number of aspects from previous Disney films, but the movie still has a number of strong emotions that occur within the story that keep it from being outright bad.

 

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