Disney’s ‘Brother Bear’ hits Blu-Ray with a new dual pack
Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2
Brother Bear directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker
Brother Bear 2 directed by Ben Gluck
New this week from Disney is a handful of 3 disc Blu-ray Double Features, one of which is for the Disney animated film Brother Bear and its direct to video sequel Brother Bear 2. When Brother Bear came out in 2003, during what some regard as the ‘lean years ‘of Disney animation when Pixar dominated everything they produced, it was bumped from the traditional Disney summer release slot in favor of the immensely popular Finding Nemo. Making its way to a double feature Blu-ray with its sequel for the first time, the question remains is it worth the purchase price?
In Brother Bear, Kenai (Phoenix) is a man who resents bears after a fight with one kills his older brother. After attacking a bear Kenai himself is turned into a bear so he can see life from a different perspective. He is visited by the spirit of his older brother (Sweeney) who relays that if he wishes to be changed back into a human, he must travel to the place where the lights touch the Earth. Fueled by hope, Kenai sets off on his long journey and along the way the way encounters a younger bear named Koda (Suarez). Koda is trying to find his way back to his home, the Salmon Run, which as it turns out is near Kenai’s destination. Koda and Kenai team up, but are hunted by Kenai’s other brother Denahi (Raize), who fears that the bear Kenai has killed the human Kenai as well. Along the way, the two bears meet other friends, including two moose (Moranis and Thomas), some rams, and some mammoths, with which they hitch a ride. The two become more than friends along the way, they become brothers, which leaves Kenai with a difficult decision.
In Brother Bear 2, Kenai (this time voiced by Dempsey), still a bear and Koda strongly believe that they do not need any girl, just each other. Kenai dreams of Nita (Moore), a girl he had met and saved when he was very young. After giving her an amulet, and promising they’d be friends forever, Nita leaves for her home and Kenai never sees her again. We then see Nita, now grown up, beautiful and preparing for her wedding. However, the ancestors are not pleased, as Nita is already tied to Kenai. The only way for Nita to break their bond and be happily married is to journey to the very place where Kenai gave her the amulet and burn it together. As Kenai, Nita and Koda journey together, Koda cannot help but feel worried that Kenai might abandon him altogether for Nita as the two start to re-ignite their young love. But will Kenai abandon Koda to become a man again to be with Nita?
Brother Bear is a very underwhelming tale. The animation is decent, but not as impressive as other Disney hand drawn films of the time. The story is flat and does not allow the audience to establish any real connection with the main characters. Disney has since re-used the premise of someone turning into a bear to teach as lesson, but with a much more capable and deserving script, in last year’s Oscar winner Brave. Phoenix is decent enough here as Kenai, though the script really doesn’t give him much to do other than fumble around because he does not know Bear etiquette and use his angry acting skills during Kenai’s human phase. The rest of the voice cast is adequate here as well; the real issues come down to story. Because of Kenai’s actions and the true result of those actions realized later on, Kenai becomes an unrelatable protagonist and leaves the audience without a viable person to cheer for other than Koda. Koda’s antics do get tiresome after a while though despite the fact that the ending does manage to bring the audience to Koda’s side.
Brother Bear 2 sadly is actually worse than the first. The story here is another one of Disney’s usual story lines in their animated direct to video sequels, which is they insert a love story, but in this case they are adding it into a bit of a mess. And this time the film adds not only one love story, but a silly tacked on love story with the background moose characters as well. Dempsey does a decent job in talking over the reins of Kenai, though the change does make you appreciate Phoenix’s job in the first film all the more. The insertion of Moore’s Nita feels contrived and forced as the potion given to Nita by the shaman Innoko (the horribly miscast Wanda Sykes) that allows her to understand and speak bear is as bad a scapegoat trope as any. The journey is the same stuff the first gave us for the most part, with Koda being the grumpy third wheel. The group reach their destination in time for the ‘Equinox’ where magically all the snow melts in one night and all the flowers and trees grow to full bloom because of the magical equinox lights. Of course the story does not end there as Kenai and Nita are left to decide how they will resolve their relationship.
The Disc includes a handful of special features from Brother Bear and one from Brother Bear 2. From the first Brother Bear the disc has some deleted scenes, including a song, animated outtakes, sing-along songs section and a making of featurette. Brother Bear 2 simply has a behind the music featurette.
Of all the Disney Dual Pack Blu-ray collections released this week the Brother Bear set is the weakest. With a weak story and un-engaging characters, Brother Bear and it sequel have not stood the test of time, especially considering Pixar’s Brave used a similar story but with greater results. Brother Bear Dual Pack is a non-recommend.
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