Oh brother (bear)…where do I start with this movie?
For those of you who didn’t see this film, Brother Bear tells the story of an Inuit boy name Kenai. Arrogant and headstrong, Kenai’s careless actions lead to his eldest brother being killed by a bear. Angered, Kenai hunts down the bear and kills it, only to be transformed into a bear himself. He meets up with a young bear cub named Coda and travels to the top of a mountain to talk to the spirits and be transformed back into a man.
Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.
I wish I could say I was oversimplifying things here just to make them sound fast-paced and absurd, but this is pretty much all that happens in the film. Everything prior to the transformation happens within the first twenty-ish minutes, and man is that a lot to take in in such a short span of time.
My problem with this film is not in the story, but rather in the overall tone and pacing. The beginning is incredibly dark, showing the death of not one but two characters. Then, once Kenai turns into a bear, it’s as though the creators decided they needed to throw in some fun to lighten the mood, and so added two moose characters for comedic relief who literally serve no purpose to the plot whatsoever. They come on-screen, make a few lame wisecracks, and that’s it. They do nothing else. This shift is so sudden and unexpected that it’s quite jarring, creating an uneven tone throughout the film. It shifts like this a few times throughout the course of the movie, leaving the viewer unsure how to feel by the end.
Parts of the film are sweet, attempting to instill a message of the importance of connecting to other creatures and understanding the world through their eyes. Unfortunately, this message is taken a little too literally in this film, rather than the more subtle approach used in a film like Pocahontas. Brother Bear feels like it’s trying too hard to make its message as clear as possible without actually doing so. It just feels a bit too jumbled and unsure.
On top of all that, near the end of the film it’s revealed that the bear that Kenai killed was (spoiler alert) Coda’s mom! Um no, this is not okay. We then have to sit though an emotional montage as Kenai breaks the news to the young cub.
NO NO NO this is not okay. I’m all for gut-wrenching scenes in a Disney film that leave you sobbing like a baby, but this is just plain wrong. “Hey kid I killed your mom but it’s okay because I’m the protagonist of the film and I’m sorry now”. WHAT?? I know there’s a lesson buried in there somewhere, but I can’t get past the whole HE KILLED THIS POOR TEDDY BEAR’S MOM thing. Nor will I ever get over it.
Mistah J felt the ending of this film helped redeem it a bit, but I was unmoved. I’m really not a fan, and doubt I’ll ever watch this one again. It was simply too uneven for my tastes, and didn’t have the perfect blend of heart and humor that makes other Disney films so great.