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:: Brother Bear

Brother Bear received an Academy Award nomination in the animated feature film category in 2003. In the typical Disney mould, it attracted a good box office response and easily appeals to children.

Brother Bear" has all of the elements of an enjoyable animated epic, with its fine animation, talented voice artists, and occasional bursts of action and comedy. Yet, the film never quite hits the spot because the characters are never terribly compelling.

The film opens with a Native American teenager named Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix). After a bear attack kills his brother, Kenai seeks revenge, only to have the spirits change him into the bear he attacked. Rather upset about the proceedings, Kenai teams up with Koda (Jeremy Suarez) and seeks out the place where the lights touch the Earth, in order to get the answer to how to change back. Meanwhile, other brother Denahi (Jason Raize) is hunting the two bears, but apparently, no nature spirits have given him a lesson yet.

The two bears spend a good deal of their early time together irritating one another, but it's little surprise that Kenai will eventually warm up to his little “brother”. Meanwhile, Rutt (Rick Moranis) and Tuke (Dave Thomas), a couple of moose, provide the comic relief. Moranis and Thomas are funny doing their routine, but their characters never seem well-integrated into the story; instead seemingly tossed in to get a laugh whenever the film gets too heavy. Overall, the film's humour and drama seemed like an odd fit, even though it did result in a few good laughs.

The songs, by Disney stalwart Phil Collins, are unremarkable this time, often attempting nobility in the manner of “The Lion King” but failing to reach that plateau. And the artwork, though beautiful, is just that, beautiful, not notable or eye-catching as the artwork could have been. The look and appearance of “Brother Bear,” although lovely, cannot sustain the film alone.

The look of the disc shows that the backgrounds are exceptionally well detailed in the soft, watercolour tradition of the best Disney cartoons. Colours are bright, and the transfer is as good and clean as they come. The bad thing is that despite all the good intentions of the artists, there isn't a lot of story to tell with the pictures.

The film lacks some oomph and it's surprising that the writers couldn't come up with a better-developed story and fully realised characters. The film does have a fan base, however, and those who are Disney devotees should enjoy this DVD edition, which provides satisfactory audio/video presentation and very good additional features.

Note that the movie was originally shown in two aspect ratios, according to Disney 1.66:1 when Kenai is a human, opening up to 2.35:1 when he turns into a bear. That‘s the way the film is shown on Disc Two. A preface on that disc explains that "'Brother Bear’ was presented theatrically in two different aspect ratios.

Disc One contains the “Family-friendly” 1.66:1 aspect ratio feature; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; and English captions for the hearing impaired.

By way of bonus items, it also contains Rutt and Tuke's amusing full-feature audio commentary (Moranis and Thomas); a music video with Phil Collins, “Look Through My Eyes”; Koda's outtakes; two Brother Bear games, “Find Your Totem” and “Bone Puzzle”; a sing-along song, “On My Way”; some Bear legends; a featurette, “Making Noise: The Art of Foley”; and a ten-minute “Art Review,” a gallery of art work from the film.

To conclude the first disc, there are twenty-eight scene selections, a THX Optimiser set of audiovisual calibration tests, and some Sneak Peeks at other Disney titles.

Disc Two contains the original theatrical-aspect ratio feature, with English and French spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired. But it also contains the forty-five minute documentary “Paths of Discovery: The Making of Brother Bear,” which takes you behind the scenes of the filmmaking; a sing-along song, “Transformation”; some deleted scenes; and twenty-eight scene selections.

The two discs are housed in a slim-line keep case, with a foldout informational booklet insert to help guide a person through the content of the two discs.

DVD Extras

Audio Commentary: Rutt and Tuke,
Bonus Track: Fishing Song,
Bonus Track: Transformation Song,
Deleted Scenes: 3, With Introduction,
Featurette: Art Review,
Featurette: Bear Legends: Native American Tales,
Featurette: Making Noise: The Art Of Foley,
Game: Bone Puzzle,
Find Your Totem,
Music Video: Look Through My Eyes,
THX Optimiser.