Judge Jonathan Weiss tried to tap his own brother bear for ten bucks once—and got severely mauled.
The Moose Are on the Loose
The Moose Are on the Loose? What kind of crazy tag line is that for a movie about a bear? Guess Rutt (Rick Moranis) and Tuke (Dave Thomas) were so popular in the original Brother Bear that it was worth giving them star billing in this straight to DVD effort from Disney. Let's see if they're worth it.
Facts of the Case
It's an age-old story: boy meets girl; boy gives girl special amulet; boy goes off and somehow gets transformed into a bear by the spirits of the Northern Lights. Well okay, so maybe it's not your typical story.
Anyway, years pass and the girl is getting ready to be married to a hunter from another tribe, only when the times come, the spirits send a message in the form of a landslide (spirits don't need to be subtle). The wedding is halted and the girl finds out that she is somehow intrinsically linked to the bear boy. In order to break the "curse" she needs to find him and travel together to where he first gave her the amulet and burn it together.
Oh yes, and along the way there are also a couple of interludes with two hoser Moose named Rutt and Tuke.
Disney's straight to DVD/video division has done some fine work in the past. Brother Bear 2 is the latest in a long line that started way back with the Aladdin franchise and continues with titles like Bambi 2 and Fox & The Hound 2. For the most part these story continuations have been handled with care and respect for the various properties and Brother Bear 2 appears to be no exception.
The voice talent alone should be proof enough that they didn't scrimp. Patrick Dempsey (Kenai, the bear boy), Mandy Moore (Nita, the heroine), Andrea Martin, Catherine O'Hara, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Wanda Sykes, Kathy Najimy, and even Michael Clarke Duncan are all along for the ride along with a soundtrack by Melissa Etheridge. But voices alone do not a movie make. Obviously story is king, and that's where Brother Bear 2 falls a little flat.
Basically, Brother Bear 2 feels like a movie that's been pieced together from a variety of different and yet familiar stories. There's the whole "Spring is here and it's time to get interested in girls" angle from Bambi; the "do I fit in or return to where I belong" vibe from The Jungle Book, stirrings of affection between different "species" a la Beauty and the Beast, and even a little something from Tarzan and Dreamworks' Shrek thrown in for good measure. Now, it's not like the wee little ones will notice, but if you've been around the Disney block a couple of times well, don't be surprised if you start feeling a little case of déjà vu.
There might also be some confusion at first if you haven't seen the first Brother Bear, but things get explained pretty quickly. What isn't explained is how Kenai (originally a human) and Koda (a true born bear) became brothers; or why Nita's prospective husband gets all Gaston (from Beauty and the Beast) on poor Kenai's heinie when from all previous meetings he seems like a nice guy. But even more curious is how the two Moose, Rutt and Tuke, keep on bumping into the traveling trio of Kenai, Koda, and Nita as if they were intentionally stalking them all the way to the Falls. All that aside, it's still a sweet little story you and your family should enjoy. Really. Even if the two Moose aren't all that funny.
It definitely looks and sounds pretty darn good. The animation is pure 2-D Disney—in a good way. The backgrounds are lush and movement is fluid. The Dolby Surround track is put to good use too; get the volume up nice and loud and the atmosphere floating across your back speakers will be a pleasant surprise. And if it's sound we're talking about then it's time to bring up the fearturette "Behind The Music of Brother Bear 2."
Melissa Etheridge provides both her vocals and song writing talent to much of the score of Brother Bear 2. The featurette is not only short and sweet but it's also a pretty good look at the amount of passion and professionalism that Ms. Etheridge brought to the job. The songs are quite wonderful but not your typical Disney fare in that they're not the kind of show tunes you'd hum while leaving the theater. They could, however, be something you'd listen to on your ipod. If this is any indication of Ms. Etheridge's scoring ability, it will really be quite interesting to see what she'll come up with if she's given other opportunities to score a movie—animated or otherwise.
Brother Bear 2 is pretty harmless fluff. Though it's doubtful whether it will ever be thought of in the same breath as other Disney classic films like Lady & the Tramp or Dumbo it's still nice that they're continuing to come out with traditional animated features and treating them with more respect than what most normally think of as "straight to DVD."
All charges against Kenai, Nita, and Kodo are dropped. Rutt and Tuke, however, are spending a night in the drunk tank. Case dismissed.
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