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Two Brothers Review

By Shawn McKenzie 06/27/2004

In the last couple of years, we have gotten some preachy animal movies, and I have hated them all.  They have been mainly animated features though, but this movie, Two Brothers, is live action.  While I thought the animal scenes were good, I didn’t like anything else, including the preaching.


The Great Tiger and Tigress were the king and queen of the jungles of Southeast Asia in the early 20th century who get together at the beginning of the movie and have two baby tiger cubs, Kumal and Sangha, not long after.  Kumal is the aggressive one, and he is constantly protecting his more timid brother Sangha.  One day, trouble comes to the jungle.  Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce), a big game hunter who is also an author of his adventures in the jungle, finds out that he can make more money from plundering the ancient temple ruins of the jungle than from hunting.  While plundering the tigers’ particular temple, he comes across the furry beasts.  The cubs’ father attempts to protect the cubs, and Aidan shoots and kills him in order to defend one of his men.  Kumal had been protecting Sangha after the weaker one had gotten a piece of bark accidentally attached to his paw, limiting his mobility.  After shooting the Great Tiger, Aidan finds Kumal and immediately takes a liking to the cub, bringing him along as he heads back to the village.  Tigress gets away with Sangha, and tries to rescue Kumal, but is too late.  The local Village Chief (Jaran Phetjareon “Sitao”), who they had paid to look away during the plundering, backstabs Aidan by turning him in for looting.  Kumal is sold off to a local circus run by Zerbino (Vincent Scarito) and Saladin (Moussa Maaskri.)  Zerbino is a nice animal trainer, but Saladin is a cruel, fire-eating circus performer who wants to replace their older show tiger, Bloody Caesar the Man Eater, with Kumal in hopes that the cub will grow up to be their next star attraction (they dub him Kumal the Blood Thirsty Tiger.)  The main trick that they want Kumal to do is to jump through a ring of fire, which makes the normally brave Kumal afraid.  Back in the jungle, Tigress and Sangha are dealing with the loss of the Great Tiger and Kumal when they have to deal with hunters.  The regional governor, Eugene Normandin (Jean-Claude Dreyfus), has freed Aidan so that he may take the local Prince (Oanh Nguyen) on a hunting expedition.  They come across Tigress and Sangha, and the Prince thinks that he has killed the mother tiger with his rifle, but he had just wounded her with a bullet-hole through one of her ears.  The governor’s son, Raoul (Freddie Highmore), finds Sangha hiding in a cave and takes him home as a pet.  Sangha has fun in the couple of days he lives in the governor’s mansion, but an incident with Bitsy, the yippy little wiener dog of the wife of the governor, Mathilde (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), causes them to have to give him to the Prince’s royal menagerie.  Sangha is soon trained to be a fighter for sport, breaking him of his timid nature.  A year later, the two brothers are fully grown, and the Prince wants to entertain his new fiancée, Miss Paulette (Stéphanie Lagarde), by having the Prince’s tiger, Sangha, fight a tiger from a local circus, which turns out to be Zerbino’s Kumal.  Ironically, now Sangha is the aggressive one and Kumal is the timid one.  Aidan, who has since sworn off tiger hunting because of his own feelings and through the influence of the Village Chief’s daughter, Naï-Rea (Maï Anh Le), with whom he has fallen in love with, sees this battle between the two brothers.  He also sees their long held brotherly bond kick in, and the reunited brothers escape.  Aidan is commissioned to hunt and kill the brothers, but he may not do it.


After seeing Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Brother Bear in the last couple of years preach to me how humans are bad and animals are good, I wasn’t really up to seeing this one.  What made it worse is that I had seen director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s last animal movie, the 1988 movie The Bear, but I barely (no pun intended) remembered it.  Just rereading the plot summary reminded me that it was preachy as well.  This movie sticks it to you one last time before the closing credits by saying that there were over 100,000 tigers in Southeast Asia around the turn of the 20th century, and that number is now less than 5000 today.  What a way to twist the guilt knife one last time.


The Bear at least had something that this movie does not have though…limited human action.  That brings me to the other thing I didn’t like about the movie…the acting.  Everyone in this movie is bad, including Pearce, whom I normally like.  I always blame the director for this, because I have seen Pearce act masterfully in better movies (most notably in the best movie of 2001, Memento), but I can’t lay the same claim on the other actors, since I’m not familiar with them.  I thought that Dreyfus and Highmore were particularly bad (which worries me about the latter, because I just learned that the young actor has been cast in the role of Charlie Bucket in the remake of one of my favorite movies ever, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.  Let’s hope that the talented director Tim Burton can mine a good performance out of this child for this version, renamed for the Roald Dahl novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)  They acted so stiffly and one-noted that I swore they were reading their lines off cue cards.


I also had a small problem with the timelines.  How in the world did Kumal and Sangha form such deep, lifelong bonds with Aidan and Raoul respectively after knowing them for a couple of days?  Do tigers have memories like elephants?  There is a scene near the end where Raoul approaches a fully-grown, sport-fighting Sangha without fear and kisses him (please kids…don’t do that at home.)  The tiger had been avoiding humans since escaping with his brother, yet he immediately recognizes the child he hadn’t seen since he was a cub.  I believe in the real world, that tiger would have attacked the boy.


I have one last minor quibble about this “family film.”  Was it really necessary to show The Great Tiger mounting Tigress at the beginning of the movie?  I’m pretty sure they could have started the movie with Kumal and Sangha being newly born without showing their conception as well.


I can give the movie one credit…the animal scenes were top notch.  Though I like a good live action talking animal movie, this one was able to show the emotions and thoughts of the animals without any special effects or voiceovers.  It was a shame that the animals gave better performances than the humans did.

If you are an animal lover, you’ll love Two Brothers, but if you are indifferent about animals and just want to see a good movie, you probably won’t like this one.  As a member of PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals), I wasn’t too crazy about it.  I’m still waiting for a good family film to come along that isn’t animated or featuring a superhero (I think that the last good one was The School of Rock, but maybe I’m forgetting one.)


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