Brother Bear

Brother Bear


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Talking animals is one thing, but how would you feel if you woke up one morning as one of them?

Did that rabbit speak to me? Why do cows mumble? It's not a simple concept. In fact, the little ones in the audience might have a problem.

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Kenai is the youngest of three brothers, living in an homogeneous tribe, way up north where the aurora borealis is believed to contain the spirits of the dead. He's a keen hunter. During the coming of age ceremony for teenage boys, Kenai is given the totem of love, a carved wooden symbol, which he must wear around his neck. He thinks it soppy and is embarrassed to show it off.

After a desperate battle with a bear, his eldest brother is killed and, later, the same brother, taking the form of an eagle, lifts Kenai up into the swirling lights of the aurora and returns him to the mountain top as a young bear. This is the bit that requires a leap of imagination.

The rest of the movie follows the Disney tradition of wisecracking sidekick (orphaned bear cub, Koda), jokey double act (two lazy moose), the community of the forest (including mammoths, for heaven's sake - is this Ice Age 2?) and the inevitable ballads (courtesy of Phil Collins), sung by Tina Turner at al.

Despite this, there is much going for it. The boy-as-bear conundrum is not simply brushed aside, as Kenai and Koda frolic in the forest. Koda can be a pain, like some bumptious pint-size who barges into your gang, and Kenai is having difficulties adjusting to being the animal he used to hunt, especially when his surviving brother turns up with a spear in his hand, looking for prey.

The spiritual side, with its tribal folklore, taking in the Nothern Lights as heaven's waiting room, is a bit New Agey and far from the madding crowd, but Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix) is a great kid - sorry, bear - and Koda (Jeremy Suarez) a real friend.

In the end, there is only one word for it - sweet. Kenai, who found the love totem too girlie, is not going to like that. He would call it exciting and dangerous and fun. Well, it's that, too, some of the time, and the scenery takes your breath away.

Aaaah... (sigh)

Reviewed on: 04 Dec 2003
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Brother Bear packshot
A Native American boy becomes a bear and learns what it feels like to be hunted.
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Director: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker

Writer: Steve Bencich, Ron J Friedman

Starring: voices of Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Jason Raize, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, D B Sweeney, Joan Copeland, Michael Clarke Duncan

Year: 2003

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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