There are a handful of Disney films that I’ve never seen, and Brother Bear was one of them. It’s always a treat to see a newly released film, but it’s yet another to enjoy one so much that I’d overlooked. Brother Bear was released on March 12th in a Blu-ray (TM)/DVD combo pack with Brother Bear 2 (which I've still to watch).
In Brother Bear , Sitka (D.B. Sweeney) is killed by a bear who is protecting her young. His brother Kanai (Joaquin Phoenix) seeks revenge for Sitka's death. Kanai kills the mother bear, but is then turned into a bear himself to learn love and empathy for the animals he believed were terrible beasts. One particular young bear, Koda (Jeremy Suarez), latches onto Kanai. Koda talks a mile a minute and doesn't leave Kanai's side, and they start to form a close relationship as Kanai starts to understand that he may still feel like a human, but is viewed as a bear by everyone else.
A third brother named Denahi (Jason Raize) believes that Kanai is dead, and seeks retaliation on the bear who did it. Unfortunately, that puts him in a struggle with Kanai and Koda, who are bonding like brothers.
The music in Brother Bear (voiced in part by Phil Collins) is not as memorable as Mulan and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The animation however, is stunning. The backgrounds seem to be watercolor paintings, and this isn't something you see much of in animated films these days. I enjoyed the artwork as much as I did the story. One interesting point for me was the difference between the mother bear (who had no discernible qualities besides being a bear) and the characteristics found in Koda and Kanai.
Unlike many other films, I was surprised at how the ending wrapped up, with choices I didn't expect. It was also a satisfying conclusion to a beautiful story of brotherhood.
Brother Bear reminds me quite a bit of Brave – I guess having human characters turning into bears will do that. But unlike Brave, I thought the beginning of Brother Bear was the weak point, it was a little slow for me before the bear transformation. My reaction to Brave is quite different – the "before bear" part is more interesting than after-bear. But I love both movies for different reasons!