Brother Bear (G)
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When I first saw ads for this in 2003, I didn't know much about it, except that some guy turned into a bear. And there were a couple of talking moose who sounded like they were doing a Bob & Doug McKenzie impression. Of course, the moose are actually voiced by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, the real Bob & Doug... and at times, I could actually recognize their voices, but somehow, they still didn't really sound like Bob & Doug to me, which was somewhat disconcerting. The moose are still funny though, eh?
Anyway, the movie begins with three Inuit brothers in a barely post-Ice Age world. The youngest, Kenai, is about to be given his totem by the tribe's shaman, Tanana. (I'm afraid when I hear the word "totem," I usually think of poles, but in this case it's a small carving worn on a necklace.) Receiving his totem is the first step to becoming a man. His eldest brother, Sitka's totem is the eagle of guidance. The middle brother, Denahi, has the wolf of wisdom. Sitka does seem good at guiding his younger brothers' development or whatever, but Denahi doesn't seem particularly wise. Wiser than Kenai, maybe, but he still seems to greatly enjoy teasing his younger brother. And then, Kenai receives his totem: the bear of love. This bothers him because he doesn't really like bears (nor does he see any association between bears and love), and he doesn't think "love" has much to do with being a man.
There was a basket of fish the brothers had caught before the ceremony where Tanana presented Kenai with his totem. And Kenai hadn't done a good job of securing it in a tree, so when they got back from the ceremony, they found the basket had been stolen by a bear. So he went to look for it, as the basket had taken his brother a long time to make. And he found it torn to shreds. So he got angry, and seeing a bear in the distance, he threw rocks at it or whatever, and it attacked. Sitka came looking for Kenai, and ended up getting killed by the bear. Later on, Kenai went looking for the bear again, to take revenge for killing his brother. Denahi followed, but not soon enough to see what happened to his brother....
And what happened was this: Kenai killed the bear. But this upset the spirits, including his deceased brother Sitka. So, Kenai was turned into a bear. And when Denahi showed up, both the real bear and the human body of Kenai were gone, so all he saw was Kenai as a bear, and his torn clothes and stuff, so he assumed the bear that was Kenai had actually killed Kenai, and would spend most of the rest of the film hunting him to take revenge for Kenai's death.
But, Tanana knew this bear was Kenai. She couldn't understand what Kenai said, but he could understand her. The spirits had told her about this, and she told him he had to travel to the place where the lights touch the mountain, to learn how to make up for what he's done wrong, and then Sitka could turn him back into a human. (Why Tanana never told anyone in her tribe, especially Denahi, that Kenai was a bear, I'm not sure. Seems like it would've saved a lot of trouble.) Anyway, Kenai doesn't think he's done anything wrong, but he sets out to look for the proper mountain, anyway.
He finds he can understand animals, now. This is surprising to him, because he thought them unintelligent. He meets a couple of moose named Rutt and Tuke, and also a bear cub named Koda. Now that Kenai is a bear, the movie goes from seeming fairly serious, to rather silly and, you know, cartoony. But it still has a fair number of serious elements. Koda has been separated from his mother, who was taking him to a place where bears gather. This turns out to be near the place Kenai was supposed to find, so he reluctantly agrees to accompany Koda, who wants his protection, so that Koda will lead him to where Kenai wanted to go.
Koda is very hyperactive and talkative, which annoys Kenai. It rather reminded me of Shrek and Donkey. Um, I can't actually recall if I'd already seen Shrek when Brother Bear first hit theaters, but it's quite possible. However, I should also say the beginning of the movie put me somewhat in mind of the TV show Avatar: The Last Airbender. You know, the Water Tribes are rather like Inuit... So, the movie is helped a bit in my estimation by this fact, and of course, Avatar didn't premiere until 2005. So here I was, watching the movie in 2006, thinking it's good that I didn't see it till now. It also reminded me of Ice Age, what with all the ice around, and an odd group of animals on a journey together. And while Ice Age came out in 2002, I didn't see that until 2006, either. So again it was nice to have seen this after seeing that. And, well, aside from that, the movie sort of reminded me of various Disney animated movies that deal with nature, like Pocahontas, The Lion King, The Jungle Book, etc. All good stuff. I do enjoy seeing other cultures like this, you know....
Anyway, Kenai eventually starts to like Koda. And he starts seeing that bears aren't always monsters, and sometimes, humans are. There is a point in the film where Kenai is listening to a story Koda tells, and realizes with horror just what it was that he had done wrong. Well, he eventually gets to the mountain and is returned to his human form, and Denahi catches up and learns the bear he's been chasing was really his brother. And then... well, I don't want to spoil the ending. I think it's pretty good. The whole movie is kind of amazing in a way... I mean, I really liked the serious parts, and then when it turned goofy, I thought that would kind of mess it up. But I ended up enjoying that, too. Not greatly, but it was okay, and in the end... in retrospect I think the serious stuff and the goofy stuff, the realistic and cartoony, it all sort of blended well to tell the whole story. And that's about all I can think to say, I guess.