Brother Bear Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker

Brother Bear Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker
This latest Disney animation is a fable about a boy who becomes a man by becoming a bear. Set shortly after the Ice Age, Brother Bear follows Native American Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix) as he anxiously awaits his initiation into manhood. When his grandmother gives him a love totem, Kenai's brothers mercilessly tease him. Tragedy strikes when Kenai's older brother is killed when a bear attacks them. The impulsive Kenai slays the bear out of revenge, but is magically transformed into the animal. To redeem himself and "get in touch with his totem," Kenai assumes care of the dead bear's orphaned cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez). Although grandma knows that Kenai is now a bear, through reasons unexplained she fails to inform Kenai's brother, Denahi (Jason Raize), who goes hunting for the bear in the film's climax. Brother Bear is muddled from start to end, starting with the turning point: the gods teach Kenai a lesson in empathy by turning him into a bear. When Koda recalls how his mother was protecting him from two attacking humans, Kenai recognises the humans as himself and his slain brother. He suffers pangs of remorse, but should he? Sure, in life it's better to forgive, but when a bear attacks your brother, aren't you justified in protecting yourself? It doesn't help that the rapport between Kenai and Koda is unconvincing. Precocious and smart-mouthed, Koda doesn't sound like a cub grieving over his mother. Koda never gains audience empathy and we wonder how Kenai is supposed to redeem himself by nurturing this brat. As Kenai's scenes as a bear occupy most of the film, we see the world from the animal's eyes, overhearing squirrels bickering and birds chatting. Interesting, but overdone. To cap it off, Phil Collins' sugary crooning about Mother Earth is downright embarrassing. (Disney/Buena Vista)
Allan Tong