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One of Disney's more underrated animated pictures (and its straight-to-video sequel) get spruced up for high-def....
Buena Vista / 158 Minutes / 2003/2006 / Rated G / Street Date: March 12, 2013
For those of you who haven't seen this latest regurgitation from the Disney machine, I'll make it easy: it is exactly what you think it will be. Which is why Disney has been able to keep its cinematic momentum over the years and the reason no Disney films are ever atrociously bad - they know the formula and stick to it. From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs on up, this is the stuff Disney has buttered its bread with, and while many in the film community will poo-poo the Disney beast for being the Microsoft of animation, there's a reason they're as big as they are: They know what the kids want.
Brother Bear is definitely not a great film - it's probably not even a good one - but it has that Disney charm: They certainly know how to do cute. From Mickey to Poomba, from Lady to the Tramp - great Disney characters have always been lovable and huggable, and such is the case with the sweet lil' folks we see in Brother Bear. From our cub protagonist Kenai to the goofy SCTV-tinged moose (voiced by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, natch), every good-natured animal character in Brother Bear is so darn sweet you might get a cavity just from looking at them.
Disney also knows how to do beautiful. Brother Bear's narrative unevenness aside, the look of this film is absolutely staggering. From the lush, grandiose forest-scapes to swirling masses of spirit and sky that accompany the more ethereal sequences, Brother Bear's simplistic story benefits from what is without a doubt some of the best 2D animation you are likely to see.
Disney is also short and sweet. More outrageous fare like Dinosaur or Fantasia push the two-hour mark, but most Disney movie magic comes in under-90-minute waves (Peter Pan barely squeaks past 70 minutes, in fact). But there is always enough storytelling meat and musical thunder to fuel a locomotive. Brother Bear clocks in at a fit and trim 85 minutes (its sequel - also included here - is even shorter), and it seems even more slight because the first 25 minutes of it is a kind of extended introduction - in many ways, it feels more like an hour-long movie with a preface than a full-length film. It may be a cop-out to say it, but the fact that it moves quickly and gets the job done fast is definitely an attribute.
With all this said, however, there are still potholes in the Brother Bear experience that severely limits its appeal. Phil Collins' and Mark Mancina's music is gross and super-saccharine (and not in a good way), and while the Native American myths utilized are exceptionally rich, the way it's presented is bland and uninteresting.
So Brother Bear is only a shade above being completely mediocre, but because there are enough coals on the Disney fire to keep those flames burning, it's not completely without its moments. Kids will dig it, adults will nap through it - it is exactly what you expect.