Back Shelf Beauties
by Willie Waffle

Brother Bear

I still don't understand how Brother Bear got an Oscar nomination for best Animated film, but there are plenty of worse movies out there.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Kenai - the youngest of three brothers who is disappointed to be told by the tribe's leader/priestess that all of his actions should be directed by love rather than courage or wisdom. Always anxious to prove his manhood, Kenai chases a bear, but it's too much for him to handle, and his brother Sitka (D.B. Sweeney) dies trying to save him and his other brother, Denahi (Jason Raize).

Kenai, looking for revenge, decides he wants to kill the bear, but, during the hunt, "the spirits" transform Kenai into a bear, so he can learn from his mistakes and better understand the world around him (how touching). To get turned back into a man, he must go to a sacred place, "where the lights touch the earth." Along the way, he meets up with a little bear cub, Koda (Jeremy Suarez), who might be able to help.

Can Koda lead Kenai to the place where the lights touch the earth? What happened to Koda's mom?

Brother Bear was a better movie than I thought it would be, but I have to wonder if kids will get it. Very little kids won't be able to take the violent parts of the film where hunters are attacking bears and bears fight back, but adults might be surprised at the emotional impact the story has on them. While directors Robert Walker and Aaron Blaise insert a pair of moose for comical effect, Rutt and Tuke, (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas doing their MacKenzie Brothers characters from SCTV), Brother Bear is best when it focuses on Koda and Kenai's magical journey through Alaska. As you can imagine, they bond and form a brotherhood that is important to both.

While Brother Bear is too mystical for my taste, as the spirits of the dead appear as eagles and such while trying to help those they left behind, it's a passable movie. You'll probably see the obvious plot twist coming from a mile away, but Brother Bear will keep your interest and won't feel like a complete waste of time.

2 Waffles (Out Of 4)

DVD Extras

Koda's Outtakes - A few years ago, Disney had the brilliant idea of adding these faked, scripted mistakes to the end of A Bug's Life, and it was hilarious. It had never been done before with animation, even though everyone in America had seen programs like Dick Clark's blooper specials. Now, it's old hat and predictable. I hated these faked outtakes because they mainly rely on potty humor and don't try anything original.

Brother Bear Games - Of the two included on this DVD, which Disney has been doing more and more with every DVD release, I liked the bone puzzle game. It's hard to move the cursor onto the proper bones to help put the puzzle together, but, after solving the puzzle, you get a little lesson about the animal (and some clips from Disney movies). Sitka from Brother Bear offers encouragement to the kids and it's a decent way to spend an afternoon.

As for the Find Your Totem game, it's not a game! It's a quiz with boring question that kids won't get or understand. One of the questions was, "what would you do if your fishing net got caught in a tree?" Another questions was, "what are you most likely to do when paddling a canoe with friends?" I know kids are supposed to use their imaginations for stuff like this, but it seems to be asking too much. Of course, the worst part of the "game" are questions where you get encouragement from the DVD after making a choice that would be considered rude.

At one point, the player is asked what he or she would do if asked to the home of a friend for dinner, but they knew they wouldn't like the food. The DVD didn't have a problem with me saying that I would bring my own food, which is out of line if you ask me.

American Indian Tales - Kids get to hear traditional stories about bears, how they came to be and more. It's interesting.

Art Tour - The user is shown drawings done for the movie, and you get to see how many changes were made to Brother Bear while it was in production. There's not much here for kids, but it's interesting for adults who have an appreciation for this type of stuff. I especially liked learning what inspired the artists and how they studied nature to develop the sets and scenery in the movie.

Sounds Effect Feature - This is an interesting feature for kids who are interested in moviemaking and don't know how the sound effects are created. Hosted by Jeremy Suarez (the voice of Koda), it covers the basic, but could have been more informative.

Copyright 2004 - WaffleMovies.com