review by Dan
Lybarger, 31 October 2003
flopped this summer, many blamed its poor showing on a
diminishing market for hand drawn animation
This is nonsense.
The reason Sinbad
flopped is because it had a dull, underdeveloped story and a
disappointingly flat vocal turn from Brad Pitt as the title
Disney studio's new offering Brother Bear looks great no
matter what medium was used to create it. But the story conveyed by
these lovely images lacks the creativity and wit of a typical Pixar
flick or even Disney's much livelier Lilo and Stitch.
are five writers credited with the script for Brother Bear,
it seems more as if they copied and pasted material from other
sources but forgot what made the originals work.
adequate fare for kids. The toilet jokes are mercifully absent, and
the tykes won't learn anything from this film that you'll regret
having to explain later.
Still, the same
could be said for Finding Nemo, and it's far more
You can almost
hear the pitch meetings as the story progresses ("It's Pocahontas
meets Treasure Planet."). Set in the age long before
Europeans settled in North America, the new film centers on a
callow, self-absorbed lad named Kenai (voice by Joaquin Phoenix).
The youngster is about get his own totem so that he can officially
be declared a man in the tribe. Kenai's age might indicate he's an
adult, but his mind and heart are far more immature.
Before you can
say The Emperor's New Groove, Kenai wrongly kills a bear he
blames for his brother's death, and the spirits of the tribe's
ancestors turn him into a bear as punishment. Unlike that film, the
humor here simply doesn't work.
Moranis and Dave Thomas to do voices for moose versions of their Bob
and Doug McKenzie characters sounds cute, but somehow these guys
just aren't funny when beer isn't involved (hops are mentioned
tangentially, but that's it). It also doesn't help that Kenai is so
self-absorbed that viewers get tired of waiting for him to get his
act together. At least David Spade's arrogant character in Groove
spouted enough giggle-inducing wisecracks to make him tolerable.
the only character with any personality Kenai encounters during his
punishment is a frisky little bear cub named Koda (voice by Jeremy
Suarez). The lad has been separated from his folks and earnestly
tries to worm his way into Kenai's heart. The pairing reminded me of
Shrek and his pal the talking Donkey, only I don't recall looking at
my watch during that film.
Aaron Blaise (a former animator) and Robert Walker (a former
layout supervisor) do create a gorgeous reworking of the Pacific
Northwest. The colors are tastefully muted, and the film is a lot
more enjoyable if you can tune out the sound.
hard to tell which is more cloying: the dialogue ("I always
wanted to have a brother.") or Phil Collins' anemic score. Once
upon a time he was once a contributor to Genesis during their
interesting periods, and his first solo album was eerily
enthralling. No such luck here.
some "ethnic"-sounding percussion, the songs here sound
even blander than the ones he wrote and performed for Tarzan.
It doesn't help that most of these tunes run during long, plotless
sequences where the images do little more than look pretty. At 85
minutes, Brother Bear is heavily padded. Any score that
manages to make the Blind Boys of Alabama and Tina Turner seem
boring deserves a special room in Hell.
If the folks at
Disney had spent more time trying to get the script right instead of
shoehorning that syrupy music, illl-informed pundits wouldn't be
decrying the end of hand-drawn animation. The crew at Pixar devote
as much if not more energy into their stories as they do their rich
visuals, and it shows. And they are the only studio who should be
allowed to run phony blooper reels at the end of their films.
There's one in Brother Bear, and it's as tedious as the rest
of the movie.
It's not the
technique that's the problem. It's the minds behind it.