WARNING: THIS REVIEW IS RIFE WITH SPOILERS.
But don’t worry, everything in this plot can be predicted by a can of Pal.
Yesterday, I attended a preview screening of Disney’s Brother Bear (which will be out in North American theatres November 1st). Needless to say that the venue was in the middle of nowhere, and to reach the cavernous mall in the dead of night, I had to drag my ailing girlfriend (who threatened, multiple times, to pass out and/or vomit) through crowds of hookers, druggies and people who didn’t look like they could possibly own anything but had a backpack anyway.
Still, we kept an objective mind, and our eye on the prize. After all, Microsoft was footing the tab for the preview screening, and I’m willing to pay hundreds of dollars in transit fees to see a movie for free. So we did. And now, I’m going to give Brother Bear a fair and just review. Which, unfortunately, is not the same as “good”.
The movie starts with a blaring song about life in a Native-American tribe. If memory serves, it’s the work of Tina Turner, and if it doesn’t then who cares. This ditty drones on over the standard imagery of people living it up amid various flora and fauna. Soon, Mrs. Turner runs out of steam, and we are treated to a bit of “plot”. Kenai, the misguided youth doomed to be the main character of this debacle is given his “coming of age totem”- the Bear of Love. Immediately, he is mocked and belittled by his stock-character older brother, and comforted by his wiser, older stock-character older brother.
From this point on, the movie abandons every value even remotely linked with originality, integrity and/or common sense. It draws on and recycles every Disney movie in the books, filling in the gaps with clichés and cheesy, predictable dialogue. Granted, it’s a G-rated family film, but the Lion King was too, and it’s a classic. In the words of Chad, this movie is “Trying to re-kindle that Lion King spark that went out with…the Lion King.”
So what happens next? Well, it seems a bear has been menacing the village’s collection of “Baskets” (oh, if only the Ranger got wind of that, eh?), and Kenai goes after it, to prove he’s not a wuss. Upon finding the creature, he throws a rock at it. In fact, throughout the opening act of the film, Kenai tries to throw a rock at just about everything and everyone. When his brother gets him upset, he picks up a stone large enough to kill a man, and moves to throw it- his brother’s life only saved by the other, cornier brother.
Then, this corny brother goes on to also save both his siblings from the Bear (Kenai enrages it after beating it with rocks and spear-chucking like a nut) and sacrifice his own life in a freak avalanche in the process.
Flash back to HQ. Kenai is maddened by the loss of his brother, and tells his brother that, as a brother, he must avenge the death of his brother, and if his brother doesn’t want to go, then, he’s failing their brother as a brother. Needless to say, this is not a wise plan, as typing all that down has given me arthritis. In a fit of anger, Kenai rips off his Bear-Lovin Totem necklace, and tosses it away. It is recovered immediately by the wise old lady of the village, who is actually the tree from Pocahontas.
Needless to say, our hero then sets out to hunt down the bear and killify it in the name of the just. So he finds it, and killifies it. This is where things get a little psychedelic. The sky turns into a crazy Windows Media Player, and Kenai’s dead brother descends, in spirit form, to glare disapprovingly, and then turn Kenai himself into a bear- the dead animal’s body is removed by the spirits, presumably to be used in the lucrative pelt trade.
At this point, the plot thickens as Kenai’s brother appears, and mistakes Kenai for the very bear whom he killed. Seeing the clothing of his missing brother (no blood, though) he swears vengeance on the bear, and a new, ironic antagonist is born. Inexplicably, he picks up the totem that Kenai threw away in the scene before, and could not possibly have then brought with him, and wraps it on his spear as a symbol of memorial justice. How did the totem end up here? Who the hell knows? All I know, personally, is this little maneuver was borrowed from a movie called “Ice Age”.
Anyway, so Kenai falls off a cliff for some reason, and regains consciousness the next day, beside the mysterious old woman from the village (who is really the tree from Pocahontas). She somehow knows who he is, and that it was his dead brother who turned him into a bear. She also explains about the random place he must go, in order to change back. It is a mountain, where the northern lights touch the earth. To illustrate this for Kenai, the old lady uses her finger to draw, in the dirt, a supple human buttocks, complete with stink-lines.
I don’t know, don’t ask me.
After she realizes she can’t draw, the old woman (tree, though, seriously) jumps into a gaping plot-hole and disappears. Kenai is left to his own devices, looking for a way to reach the mountain where the writers have hidden the ending to this train-wreck. Immediately upon setting out, he meets a pair of Moose who are actually Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as Bob & Doug Mackenzie. Yes, even the comic relief characters (despite saying some funny stuff) are not original.
Anyway, as the movie drones on and I become sick of re-telling the mundane, predictable plot, Kenai befriends a little bear who’s lost him mom. His name is Koda, but he’s actually Nala from the Lion King, complete with faux braveness, fighting moves, and a trip into a green place with smoky geysers.
At this point, not only does the movie stick to being formulaic and un-sympathizing to an audience of over-3 year olds, but they just go completely God-damned nuts. First, the brother/hunter appears, with a sickeningly drawn Tatar mustache. To escape him, the bears…okay, sit down for this. To escape him, the bears Ride Mammoths. They ride mammoths. I saw a mammoth near the beginning of this movie, but chose to ignore it, blocking the image out. And yet, here they are, totally breaking down the “contemporary nature” feel of the forest. And since when do moose, bears and like a million other kinds of animal ride mammoths? This scene is confusing, and watching it feels like you’re on drugs.
In fact, much of the film pastel tint, and neon coloration, as well as Phil Collins’ dreamy sound-track (He sings “There’s no way out of this dark place- no hope no future,” probably in reference to his contract with Disney) make it seem like a drug-induced nightmare. A mammoth trunk holding up two moose against the shifting, yellow-pink sky is as close to magic mushrooms as I’m coming.
In the end, after Kenai encounters a giant, over-friendly inmate-like bear, and understands that it’s humans who are the monsters (didn’t see that coming, eh?) it all comes to a sudden, underwhelming conclusion. I can just see the drug-downing writers of this bad-boy in their hot-boxed conference room:
“Okay dudes, I see it. It’s like, all the bears are flying. And the freaking fish, too, and they’re all flying, man. And the music’s like I’M SO HAPPPY I COULD PISSS, you know?”
“Dude, I just pissed.”
“No, guys, but seriously, maybe they should do that underwater.”
”No, like, fly. And then, like they’re all COMING RIGHT AT YOU, you know?”
“Yeah, wicked. But bro, we need an ending.”
“Okay, I’ve got it. Okay. No I’ve got it, okay.”
“What is it?”
“Okay, we have the bear…and he hugs the hunter.”
“Awesome man. No, wait, he can’t do that. The hunter hates him for killing that one dude.”
“True, but hear me out, just hear me out. What if…that one dude is ALSO hugging them?”
“Um…but he’s dead…”
”In GHOST form!”
“Duder, you are a genius. Run with it.”
And so, Brother Bear comes to an end. A formulaic exercise in mundane-ness, rip-off of rip-offs, and waste of my time. Your five year old, however, he’s a different story. Still, if you’re half a parent, you’ll just rent him the new Lion King DVD instead.
Oh, Brother! *canned laughter*
- Review: THE PASSION of THE CHRIST – A sensitive companion piece to Brother Bear, or outright plagiarism? You decide.
- Cinema’s Greatest Ripoffs – Not all of Hollywood’s output is this original.
- Podcast Episode 104: Podcast Goes Hawaiian – Featuring “Five Second Movie Reviews”, for those with no patience for the wordy drivel above.
- SexChat with the Formless Underlord of the Crimson Kingdom – Did this ill-advised first date movie put a strain on your relationship? The Formless Underlord is here to help!