Movie Review
Brother Bear
Brother Bear poster
By Greg Ward     Published November 3, 2003
US Release: October 24, 2003

Directed by: Aaron Blaise Robert Walker
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix , Hope Levy , Jeremy Suarez , Rick Moranis

Running Time: 85 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $85,329,000
Not a bad film, but it is lacking overall.
When I think of an animated film by Disney, I expect I am going to see beautiful animation with likable characters, a story possessing elements you can relate to, great vocal talent and a strong message for all ages. This year?s ?Finding Nemo? accomplished all of these aspects and then some; its visuals were stunning, the characters were warm and touching, the vocal talent was amazing, and it was an overall fantastic animated film (easily making my top 10 list of this year). With ?Brother Bear,? Disney takes a big step down; while the film is moderately entertaining, it fails to display the magic and usual flair Disney is known for.

Brother Bear tells the story of Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix), a young Native American boy who has two older brothers; when one of his brothers is killed, he seeks revenge on the bear that committed the crime. In the process, he magically becomes a bear, only to befriend Koda (voiced by Jeremy Suarez), a young bear who has been separated from his mother; this is a friendship Kenai does not expect to have, and he ends up learning some valuable life lessons in the process.

?Brother Bear? is as basic as any animated film can be; the film offers nothing new, especially since it feels like a retread of ?The Lion King? at many points. The story sometimes feels rushed as well, as the movie is only around 80 minutes and end comes rather quickly; with such a short running time, the story never allows us to really get to know all of the characters.

I know most animated films are this short, but other films at least give the characters more depth; for example, the characters Rutt and Tuke are completely wasted. These two are supposed to be replicas of Timon and Puumba in moose form, but never live up to the humor that Timon and Puumba presented in ?The Lion King.?

The animation in ?Brother Bear? isn?t anything to dazzle at either; while it is extremely colorful, it could use major improvement. Towards the beginning of the film, they showed a deer and I thought to myself, ?Deer looked better in Bambi, and that film was made in 1942!? With the addition of Pixar, it seems as if 2D animation has really had its day, and ?Brother Bear? truly proves this point. I wanted more scenery; I wanted the film to look more realistic, but a lot of it was basic.

The voice talent is just marginal at best; Joaquin Phoenix does a decent job, but anyone could have probably done it better. Jason Suarez, on the other hand, does a wonderful job as the young Koda; his voice presents somewhat of an innocence that makes you feel for him, bringing on a certain charm that is perfect for the part he is playing.

?Brother Bear? is not a bad film, but it is lacking overall. Since Disney has made such a big step with animation, they could have done a lot more with it. I would recommend it as a family film with the message of love, brotherhood, and friendship, but that?s really it; in terms of animation, the film (at times) even seems bland. If you are looking for an 80-minute distraction to take the kids to, I suggest seeing ?Brother Bear? ? otherwise, I wouldn?t bother.
Greg's Grade: C+
Greg's Overall Grading: 25 graded movies
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