Brother Bear Review
By Shawn McKenzie 10/31/2003
One of my early comedy favorites growing up were the McKenzie Brothers, played by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. Sure, it was kind of cool that Bob and Doug had my last name, but every time I saw them on “SCTV” or saw the movie Strange Brew, they cracked me up. Whenever I hear the Christmas classic “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” I always picture their version, where on the first day of Christmas their true love gave to them…a beer. I always wondered if they would ever reunite for a new project. Finally, they are back, but not as Bob and Doug. They are the two moose plastered all over the ads for the new Disney movie Brother Bear. It is fun to see (or should I say hear) them again, but I still hope they do something separate from this soon.
Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix), A Native American living in the Pacific American Northwest, is about to receive his totem. It is a symbol revealed by the Great Spirits to help guide him through life, and it is given to him by Tanana (voiced by Joan Copeland), the village Shaman. His totem is a carved bear, which is the symbol of love. He thinks a love totem is wussy, at least compared to his two older brothers’ totems. His oldest brother Sitka (voiced by D.B. Sweeney) has the eagle totem, representing guidance, and his other brother Denahi (voiced by Jason Raize) has the wolf totem, representing wisdom. Sitka tries to impart upon him how important the totem is, but Denahi makes fun of him about it. Later, Kenai is given the responsibility of tying up the basket of fish caught that day, but he does a weak job of it, and it doesn’t take long before a bear has stolen the basket. He follows the bear to either get back the fish or kill the bear, and his brothers follow him because they don’t want the bear to kill him. That actually almost happens, but Sitka sacrifices himself to save Kenai and Denahi by breaking off a piece of glacier containing him and the bear. It takes them out of harm’s way, but Sitka is killed while the bear is just stunned. Vowing revenge, Kenai goes after the bear for more than just fish retrieval reasons. He kills the bear, which makes the Great Spirits, in the form of the Northern Lights, fall down upon Kenai, and turn him into a bear himself. Denahi arrives upon the scene just after he has turned into a bear and thinks that the bear he sees there has killed Kenai (since he sees Kenai’s clothes near the bear.) This makes Denahi want to kill this bear out of revenge. Tanana is the only one who knows that the bear is really Kenai and she tells him that it was the spirit of Sitka who turned him into a bear and that he can find Sitka’s spirit on the “mountain where the light touches the earth.” He doesn’t know where that is (and Tanana is in no hurry to tell him, or anyone else that he is now a bear), so he tries asking the animals that he can suddenly now understand. He tries asking some chipmunks (voiced by Bumper Robinson) and two Canadian-accented moose brothers named Rutt (voiced by Moranis) and Tuke (voiced by Thomas.) They all dismiss him as crazy, and either run away from him or tease him. He finally finds help in the form of a bear cub named Koda (voiced by Jeremy Suarez) who lends him a hand when he accidentally becomes caught in a bear trap. Koda has been separated from his mother, and intends to meet her at the annual Salmon Run. He wants Kenai to help him get there, and exchange, he will tell Kenai where the mountain he is looking for is. At the Salmon Run, Kenai meets Tug (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), who is the leader of the bears (including the voices of Estelle Harris, Greg Proops, Pauley Perrette, Darko Cesar, Brian Posehn, Pamela Segall, and Wil Wheaton) that have gathered for the annual fish-gathering festival. After all the adventures he goes through with Koda (including an amusing scene with some rams, voiced by Paul Christie and Daniel Mastrogiorgio) and the fun he has with these bears, Kenai starts to have better feelings towards bears, where previously he thought they were all just monsters. He also finds out the truth about Koda’s mom, which might affect his relationship with Koda. If he can make it to the mountain to see Sitka before Denahi catches up to him, he might be transformed back and finally learn what it means to be a man.
Personally, I would have rather seen a movie centered on Rutt and Tuke. The story itself was okay, but the scenes with the supporting characters were the only fun parts. The tale of Kenai and Kody was a little preachy and sappy. Were they trying to teach kids that bears aren’t dangerous, or that humans are?
The music was another matter. The songs by Phil Collins sounded like he took the music he did for the movie Tarzan and just rewrote the words. The opening Tina Turner song is quite possibly the weakest song she has ever done.
Brother Bear isn’t the worst cartoon I’ve seen this year. Those crazy moose, the rams, and the bears at the Salmon Run made the movie more enjoyable than some other animated features that came out this year. It’s too bad that it took a cartoon to bring back my
favorite Canadian hoseheads, but anyway to bring them back is fine with me. I just hope the next time I see them, they will be in human, non-cartoon form (okay, maybe just human form; the Strange Brew DVD hinted at the possibility of a new show called “The Animated Adventures of Bob & Doug McKenzie,” but it will air just in Canada.) Take off, hosers!
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