When “Finding Nemo” conquered the seven seas and became the new benchmark of Disney’s big screen success, there was little doubt that future efforts would pale when compared to such an inimitable and beautifully unique standard. “Brother Bear” is the newest of these failures, but that’s hardly calling it a poor movie. “Bear” tells the tale of Kenai, a young, adventurous Native American boy, who is transformed by sky-dwelling spirits into his greatest beastly foe: a bear. In animal form, Kenai journeys the wild, passionately searching for self and enlightenment. Along the way he befriends a fellow cub, Kudo, and two aimless moose, Rutt (Rick Moranis) and Tuke (Dave Thomas). All the while, Kenai’s human brother is hunting him relentlessly, hoping to bag the grizzly he doesn’t know to be his brother.
Simply put, “Bear” is standard Disney fare and doesn’t distinguish itself from the company’s myriad other animated releases. It’s an innocuously encouraging and heartwarming story of self-realization driven throughout by a gleeful Phil Collins (and Tina Turner on several tracks) soundtrack that, depending on your demeanor, will either brighten your day or annoy you greatly.
Much of the animation is simplistic, in stark contrast to “Nemo”‘s surreal, overwhelming visual onslaught, and at times, it almost seems rudimentary. The landscape art tends to be underdeveloped; however, in the end, some majestic shots of the bear haven to which Kenai and company travel compensate for any such shortcomings.
Dialogue and comedy also aren’t priority in “Bear” as they tend to be in the majority of Disney pictures. There are laughable moments, but they punctuate longer droughts and aren’t nearly as sharp or allusive as those we saw in “Nemo” and other animated greats. The script is definitely family oriented and not intended to be as referential or corrosive as some of its contemporaries.
It seems, though, that the overarching aim of the project itself is to be entertaining, wholesome, but perhaps more sterile than its predecessors. It will keep children engaged and garner some chuckles and smiles from complacent adults, but those who’ve experienced the purest greatness of animation will likely leave with a feeling of indifference and yearning for something better.
Rating: 3 stars.