13 June 2007

Ink Blots LXVIII - Brother Bear

Some people have a knee jerk reaction to any film (especially animated ones) with any sort of environmental or nature friendly message. Well, Bambi has a pretty liberal spin, and its almost universally hailed as a classic... so it is possible to be a good movie and be anti-animal killing. Now that I have established that point, on with the review.

Had Brother Bear come out ten years sooner than its 2003 release, it would have fit in perfectly well with the batch of Disney's 90's new classics. Sure, its not quite a Lion King, but its no Home on the Range or Chicken Little neither. As it was, Brother Bear came out at the tail end on the traditional animation decline. Bear mustered $85 million in the US, and a total of $250 million worldwide, so it really wasn't a bust, but not a blockbuster either.

The story centers around Kenai, an Inuit boy who loves to antagonize bears. His antics get his brother killed, and so Kenai seeks revenge eventually killing the bear who caused him trouble. As a kharmatic result, the spirits turned Kenai into a bear so he could gain a new perspective. A third brother, think the bear had offed two of his brothers vows to kill the bear formed Kenai. In the meantime, Kenai meets up with a hyperactive cub who wants to go to the salmon run which is conveniently near the Aurora Borealis (home of the spirits). I wont spoil the end, but there a couple of profound and interesting developments.

The animation is quite nice here, and a nice touch is the change in aspect ratio corresponding to Kenai's transformation. Also, upon becoming a bear, the animation becomes more vibrant and slightly more "toony." One of the down sides of the film is that it went the Tarzan route of Phil Colinsifying the film rather than just having the characters sing. Phil is ok, but supercharging the film with too much of a "good" thing hurts it a tad. Still, On My Way, Welcome, and Through My Eyes are all pretty good. Unfortunately with so much Phil, the songs tend to blend.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I liked this one. Its got a classic feel to it, and is a bit touching even though it teaches us to be nicer to bears. The "funny moose" are slightly funny, and the animation stands up with Disney's top tier. Even though the music isn't terrible, I would have preferred a different style for the movie, and for that reason, Bear doesn't quite stand up against The Little Mermaid, or other Disney A list animated films. Brother Bear still manges a B+ and is worthy of a better rep than it has.

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