Brother Bear

| November 2, 2003

I have been a fan of SCTV’s McKenzie Brothers since the very early 80’s…yes, over twenty years. I have a rare movie tie-in book and all their albums on vinyl, I preordered the DVD of Strange Brew and I have Bob & Doug McKenzie “action” figures on my desk.
So when I saw the trailer for Brother Bear during Finding Nemo, I was absolutely thrilled to hear two moose with very familiar voices. Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas are Rutt and Tuke, two moose brothers who are, basically, the McKenzie Brothers with hooves and antlers.
They were the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of this movie (much as they were in Strange Brew, actually), wandering in and out of scenes to provide comic relief. And they were necessary at times.
This is an absolutely beautiful movie. It’s visually stunning. The portrayal of ice age, glacier-covered northern North America is just gorgeous. The colours, the imagery…it has a lushness that cannot really be captured with computer animation. The characters, too, are very well done, particularly the humans. In the past, Disney hasn’t really made realistic humans, but the brothers Sitka, Denahi and Kenai are especially good. However, this isn’t really a movie for children. Yes, it’s animated, and it has talking animals, but much of what goes on in the film is not going to be completely understood by even older kids. There’s a lot of Native American/Innuit mythology that even some adults may not fully appreciate. It’s also a very male-dominated movie, with only one strong female character in the entire 85 minutes. However, it could be argued that other Disney films, especially Lilo and Stitch and Mulan, were aimed more towards girls. Still, this is a boy movie.
The story turns a bit heavy-handedly moralistic towards the end, and it does have a patented happy Disney ending. But there are also fight scenes and deaths are are as dark as anything Disney’s ever done. Bambi’s mother has nothing on the fight between Sitka and a bear.
And then there’s the music. Phil Collins’ score is awful. Just horrid. The songs aren’t clever; if anything they detract from the imagery. The lyrics are pedestrian and…not lyrical. I can only hope the DVD is released with an optional soundtrack-free version. But back to the moose, eh? They’re beauty. They, like, capture the spirit of the Great White North and make this movie more than just another Disney cartoon. It’s also a little piece of Canadian pop culture.
So, like, trample off and see it, eh? But don’t forget your jar of moths, just in case.

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