In 2003 I was in high school, too busy being a teenager to see the latest kiddie Disney movie, Brother Bear. All I knew about this movie was what I saw in the commercials: something about bears (obviously), there’s a pair of Canadian sounding moose and Phil Collins sings songs. A while ago, my brother’s girlfriend told me it was her favorite movie and that I had to see it. She’s an aspiring writer, new to the blogosphere (check her out here).
Brother Bear is about three prehistoric Inuit brothers finding their destiny. Kenia (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix) is the youngest, a headstrong teen about to receive his totem. It is an important ritual that helps guide him towards manhood, where he can add his handprint to the wall of his ancestors. Kenai is disappointed that his totem is a bear representing love.
After the ceremony, Kenai finds that his irresponsible ways let a bear take a basket of fish and tries to retrieve it. His older brothers, Sitka and Denahi, follow and Stika sacrifices himself to save his brothers when the bear is provoked. Kenia seeks revenge on the bear and kills it, but Stika’s spirit punishes Kenia and turns him into a bear to learn from his mistakes. Meanwhile, Denahi believes both his brothers were killed by bears and starts hunting Kenia (in bear form) as he journeys to the great mountain where the spirits touch the Earth.
A theme that Brother Bear hits hardest on are ideas of manhood. As a mother to a little boy, this is something that is growing more important to me. I notice myself thinking about how manhood is presented in children’s movies. This movie is great for growing boys. It shows that violence and revenge will only lead to more problems while love, acceptance and being responsible will make you a good man. And for parents of feuding siblings, this can be great film exemplifying brotherly love.
Every movie aimed at children needs comic relief. Here we get some laughs that soar and other that fall a bit flat. Koda is an effortless, charming hoot. I especially enjoyed some of his more adlibbed banter with Kenia on their journey. Meeting up with his other bear friends at the Salmon Run is fun too. However, the pair of moose and goats fall between annoying and trying too hard. And worst of all, I don’t see how the shouting goats do anything to further the story.
Overall, I really enjoyed Brother Bear and am glad I finally gave it a chance. With the kid friendly lessons on respect, responsibility, love and family it’s a great treat that parents can enjoy with their children. Plus Phil Collins provides part of the catchy soundtrack. Best of all, I cannot think of a better film where Disney mixes animals, humans and a spiritual realm all at once, but Brother Bear balances it all in a tasteful manner.
“You left too soon, Sitka. Your brothers need your guidance.”