“You left too soon, Sitka. Your brothers need your guidance.”
The Scoop: 2003 G, directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, and Rick Moranis
Tagline: The story of a boy who became a man by becoming a bear.
Summary Capsule: Little brother is out for revenge after losing big brother. Little brother becomes a big brother…and a bear.
Yeti’s Rating: The best Phil Collins concert I’ve ever attended. Even better than Tarzan: The Phil Collins Experience.
Yeti’s Review: We question our choices and qualities constantly. It’s only natural. “Why did I stay in that relationship so long?”, “Why did I pay to see Cloud Atlas in theaters?”, and “Should I eat this third can of Chef Boyardee?”. Obviously I made up that last one. I never question my eating habits.
But what I have been asking myself, especially as I get older, is “Why am I still so affected by Disney animated movies?” I’m a quarter-century old, five years away from the big three…oh. Can I watch Hercules on a Saturday afternoon (okay you got me. Saturday night*) when I’m 33 years old? Do I have to produce children for it to be socially acceptable to watch The Great Mouse Detective? Unfortunately, I worry about this more than the skin cancer that runs in my family.
But what comes with age is the ability to stop caring what other people think. At least that’s what Disney taught me. Who cares if the relationship between Kenai and Koda moved me emotionally. Life has taught me I’m not the only one who feels this way. I didn’t even have to look very far. Our very own Deneb is an even bigger Disney fan than I am. I strongly suggest checking his reviews out if you like animated films (especially his review of one of my favorites). Hopefully I can be a worthy Koda to Deneb’s Kenai.
In quintessential Disney fashion, Brother Bear is throwing a few different themes at you. That’s one of the joys of watching a Disney flick. If I had children of my own I’d attempt to explain the messages the film is trying to send. Seeing as how my prospect of fostering a child are pretty low right now, I’ll let the readers have this privilege.
- The complexities of brotherhood
Kenai blames himself for the death of his oldest brother, Sitka. Not only that, but Kenai’s middle brother Denahi blames him as well. Brotherhood (not the fraternity kind from Neighbors, between Zach Efron and Dave Franco) has been prevalent in Disney for as long as I’ve been watching. We all remember the strained relationship between Mufasa and Scar. It’s such a unique bond we have with our brother(s). We try to juggle jealousy, admiration, respect, friendship, resentment, sympathy, empathy, disappointment, and so on.
What I liked about Kenai, is that he had to go from being the youngest brother in a family, to overnight becoming an older brother to Koda. As the youngest, you always want to prove yourself to big bro. Watch me do this. Let me do that. You want respect and approval from your older sibling. As the oldest, you want to set a good example. You need to be there for your kin, to protect them. Yet you can’t deny the times when you are also annoyed with them. It’s really great to see Kenai go through that transformation. Not only into a bear, but into an older brother. At first he’s pushing Koda away as if he’s a pesky fly. But eventually he realizes that he’s become an important figure in Koda’s life. Whether your the oldest or the youngest in the family, you don’t want to let your brothers down.
Clearly revenge is bad, right? It led to Koda’s mother being killed and almost Kenai himself. Yet it’s such a natural reaction. An eye for an eye. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of stories focused on revenge. Who’s to say it’s worth it in the end? That’s the thing. If a bear took my brother’s life, I’d foolishly go after the beast. But even if I accomplished my task, would I feel better? I don’t know. I doubt it, but I can’t really say unless I experience it. Interesting to note Koda had the same option at the end of the film. Kenai confesses what he did to his mother, but instead of taking revenge, he ends up saving his new big brother (after a heartfelt conversation between the moose brothers). Mainly because they bonded during a Phil Collins song in the middle of the film, but still.
- Don’t judge a book by it’s cover/ Walk a mile in my shoes
One of the first lessons we’re taught as children and yet it seems to never stick. Here’s an awful, and not so relevant example. I would mock my friends for reading young adult novels, such as The Hunger Games or Enders Game. It’s not like I’m reading freakin’ The Brothers Karamazov. All it took was one young adult book (The Book Thief for those wondering) to make me realize how ignorant I sounded. Now I just ridicule the friends of mine that don’t read at all. Yeah, that’s not much better, but I’m getting there. The point is I judged them because what they were doing made me uncomfortable with myself. Why haven’t I read The Hunger Games yet? Because it’s dumb that’s why. Not worth my time. That’s the genius logic I had.
In the same way I was uncomfortable, Kenai was scared. The fact that he may be responsible for his brother’s death frightened him. He’s fearful after losing his eldest brother. Heck, he’s probably scared of the bear itself. All of that fear turned into blame, not on himself, but on that monster. That monster happened to be a protective mother just trying to get her cub to safety. Of course, we don’t know that and neither does Kenai.
Let me see a show of hands for those of you that cry during movies. Okay. That’s a reasonable number. My family never cries during films. Or television. Nothing fictional. To them, it’s ridiculous to think a made up character would evoke such feelings. Laughter and horror are fine of course, but never weeping. George R.R. Martin is a producer of many of my favorite quotes, but none more than this:
“Just as you grieve if a friend is killed, you should grieve if a fictional character is killed. You should care. If somebody dies and you just go get more popcorn, it’s a superficial experience isn’t it?”
So I’m not going to apologize for crying when Littlefoot talks to the cloud version of his mother. And there is absolutely no shame when I admit to tearing up at the end of Toy Story 3. My watery eyes during Ice Age on the other hand? Perhaps not as acceptable. I don’t think it has to even be a character death. Even just in Brother Bear, seeing our main character evolve into a better person (or mammal) is enough to evoke tears of happiness.
Before I end my review let me express my love for what may be, the best Disney soundtrack. Brother Bear as a film is heartfelt, funny and inspiring. But as a soundtrack? It’s what every Phil Collins concert should be. For years I’ve debated writing Phil Collins a letter explaining how good an idea a Tarzan/Brother Bear live concert would be. It would just consist of, “Hey Phil Collins, do a concert with only songs from Tarzan and Brother Bear. Thanks, Yeti.”
It’s as if each of his songs (and the one Tina Turner song) were specifically made for each scene. Great Spirits conveyed the beauty of this earth and how we are all brothers (and sisters) on it. On My Way, my personal favorite, shows what it feels like to meet a new friend or go on a journey. Even a little bit of both. It’s my go-to song for a sunny day. No Way Out is the perfect song for the occasion. If you’ve ever let anyone down, especially a family member, this one hits hard. Remember all that talk of crying earlier? This song was the trigger for the tears. If I’m ever hired by Disney, I full expect Welcome to be playing in the office on my first day. And lastly, Look Through My Eyes is the ultimate post credits song. After the ninety minute journey I just went on, it was the perfect sendoff. If you want to watch a solid Disney film you’re always welcome to look through my eyes, but it may be hard to see through all the water.
- Tuke (Dave Thomas) and Rutt (Rick Moranis) are two brother moose that provide much of the comic relief in the film. They’re actually pretty funny. Either that or my humor has devolved back to a child’s.
- This was Rick Moranis’s last movie. Well, last as of now. I’m still begging for his comeback. Three things I need to be alive for. 1. ASOIAF ending 2. Tim Drake finding his way in a Batman movie 3. Rick Moranis comeback
- More on Tuke and Rutt. Apparently Thomas and Moranis worked together on The Adventures of Bob and Doug Mckenzie : Strange Brew. They used the same personalities and accent in Brother Bear as they did that film. I’ll end up going to see it just so I can hear them overuse the word “eh” some more.
- The third and final film to be fully produced at Disney’s Orlando, Florida animation facility at the Walt Disney World Disney-MGM Theme Park. This studio was shut down in March 2004 in favor of computer animated features.
- Most of the original cast returned for the straight to DVD sequel. The only one who did not was Joaquin Phoenix. He was replaced by Patrick Dempsey. Upgrade? I think not.
Koda: If the snow’s white, then it’s all right. Yellow or green, it’s just not clean. I learned that one the hard way.
Tuke: I love… dew.
Rutt: I love dew too.
Tuke: How’s it going, bear?
Kenai: Don’t call me that.
Tuke: Sorry, um… Mister Bear?
Young Goose: Are we *there* yet?
Goose: Don’t make me turn this formation around!
Kenai: I’m not a beaver, I’m a bea-, no, I mean I’m not a bear, I’m a MAN!
Tanana: Let love guide your actions, and one day, you’ll be a man, and will place your mark next to those of our ancestors.
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