Run time: 85 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 1st November 2003
Box Office USA: $85.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $77.7M
Distributed by: Buena Vista Pictures
Production compaines: Walt Disney Feature Animation, Walt Disney Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 48 Rotten: 77
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix as Kenai, Rick Moranis as Rutt, Jeremy Suarez as Koda, Joan Copeland as Tanana, Michael Clarke Duncan as Tug, Harold Gould as Old Denahi, Jason Raize as Denahi, Paul Christie as Ram #1, Danny Mastrogiorgio as Ram #2, Dave Thomas as Tuke, Estelle Harris as Old Lady Bear, D.B. Sweeney as Sitka, Pauley Perrette as Female Lover Bear, Bumper Robinson as Chipmunks, Brian Posehn as Additional Voice, Greg Proops as Male Lover Bear, Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley as Inuit Narrator, Philip Proctor as Additional Voice, Patrick Pinney as Additional Voice, Darko Cesar as Foreign Croatian Bear
Perhaps a better title would have been "Oh Brother! Bear."
Disney's latest assembly-line cartoon about an orphan hero learning generic life-affirming lessons to the bland light-rock melodies of Phil Collins, "Brother Bear" is so overloaded with musical montage sequences of Northwestern nature and lip-service touches of ancient Native American culture that there's hardly room left for character development.
Joaquin Phoenix provides the voice of Kenai, a sullen Indian teenager who is hell-bent on tracking and killing a bear he blames for his guardian big brother's death -- until he's transformed into a bear himself by the spirits, hell-bent on teaching him to grow up and not go off half-cocked.
To get his human form back, he's told he must "journey to where the spirits touch the earth" -- a mountain that pierces the nightly display of the aurora borealis. Along the way he befriends a lost cub named Koda (provided a jolly playful voice by Jeremy Suarez, who was Cuba Gooding, Jr.'s kid in "Jerry Maguire") and a pair of goofy moose with the voices of Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, reprising the comical quintessence of their Canadian doofus characters ("Beauty, eh?") from the days of "SCTV."
The hilarious, seemingly ad-libbed presence of these two helps settle the film into a humorous narrative rhythm that is almost enough to save it from the intrusive (and awful) music. But after every song about "precious moments you'll never forget," etc., "Brother Bear" has to recover that rhythm and its comedy footing.
Disney has recently announced that it will stop producing cell-animated movies in favor of the invariably higher-grossing CGI cartoons. But what they fail to realize is that movies like "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters, Inc." aren't hits because they're computer-generated.
They're hits because the people who make them are devoted to the kind of creativity and originality that delights a broad audience of adults, young adults and kids, whereas Disney's hand-drawn features have long wallowed in the kind of formulaic rut that spawns movies like "Brother Bear" -- movies parents slog through with a few grins for the sake of their kids, who haven't seen enough good movies yet to know any better.
"Brother Bear" isn't a bad movie, but it is obviously a product of minimal inspiration.