Movie Review by Debbie Winkler
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Jason Raize, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas
Director: Aaron Blaise & Robert Walker
Series: Brother Bear #1
Release Date: 1 November 2003
Length: 85 minutes
Movie Rating: G
View Format: DVD
My Rating: 4/5 stars
“In Disney‘s animated adventure, the son (Joaquin Phoenix) of an Indian chief killed by a bear vows vengeance but is transformed by spirits into the very thing he sought to slay. Seeing the world through a bear’s eyes, the young man learns valuable lessons about the cycle of life. Also included is the full version of the movie in the original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical presentation, as well as a making-of featurette, deleted scenes and more.” — Netflix.com
I have avoided watching this Disney animated feature for years and, now that I have seen it, I really don’t understand why as it is absolutely adorable! Koda (voiced by Jeremy Suarez) had to be my favorite character as he was such a cute little guy and determined to not let others get him down. If there is anyone who lives life like his glass is half full, it is Koda! Sure, he can get annoying and, sure, he is alarmingly cheerful for a guy who doesn’t have much going for him, but he really brought a smile to my face. I love that Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix) learned such a great lesson in this movie, too, and I am hoping that children everywhere see that animals’ motivations are not so different from our own. That is not to say that I think you should go out of your way to hug a grizzly bear, but it is important to realize that they have the instinct to protect their families and their territories just like humans do.
As always, one of the main strengths of this movie is what Disney does best: the supporting characters. The moose were hysterical and, even though they were not in the movie very much, they were just too funny! The other bears were not in the movie very much either, but in the few scenes that they were in, Disney was able to give them each individual personalities and make them memorable. The humans were well represented with the Intuit Native American tribe and I loved that some of their traditions and culture was incorporated into this movie. I do not know how much of it is completely accurate, but it is great that an attempt was made to teach children about anthropology and cultures other than their own.
The music is wonderful in this movie. I am not really a huge Phil Collins fan in the real world, but his Disney soundtracks in movies like Brother Bear & Tarzan are outstanding. I had no idea that the “Welcome to Our Family” is from this movie. I watched the Disney parade for all of 2009 and it heavily featured this song. I thought that they created it especially for the parade. Not so, this charming song came from this movie and is one of my favorite Disney songs. The animation is also top notch and really evoked the spirit and feel of the wilderness. Nothing is too polished and the lines are drawn with just the right amount of curves.
The storyline was much more interesting than I anticipated and I really was caught up in the story of the three brothers. I had no idea what kind of destiny they would find and fulfill, but the story was just wonderful and had a great pacing and flow. If you have not seen this movie because it does not feature humans or a princess or whatever your criteria is, I recommend that you set it aside and succumb to this charming movie. I don’t think that this movie is as popular as the quality that this feature deserves. I sure didn’t give it the attention that it warranted, but I am making up for it now. I tell everyone that it is my “new” favorite and have had a wonderful time watching it and learning more of the songs. Definitely check it out if you haven’t seen this movie yet.
There are a few kind of intense and scary sequences involving human/bear battles and fights. They are not too gory or explicit, but they can be kind of frightening, especially for young children. Recommended for ages 3 and up.