Brother Bear: 2 Movie Collection (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker/ Ben Gluck
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1-2.35:1/1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 85/73 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Review Date: March 9, 2013
Brother Bear – 4/5
Angered when a bear kills his beloved older brother Sitka (D. B. Sweeney), Eskimo teenager Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), who’s just received his totem of manhood rooted in love, stalks and kills the bear responsible for his grief only to suddenly be transformed by his brother’s spirit into a bear himself. Not wishing to remain a bear, he knows he must seek out his brother’s spirit which is contained in the Aurora Borealis, but he has no clue how to get there until he stumbles upon a young bear cub Koda (Jeremy Suarez) who swears he knows the way to the mountain where the Northern Lights appear. Along the way, the two experience a series of adventures not the least of which is trying to escape from Kenai’s brother Denahi (Jason Raize) who assumes this is the bear who has killed both of his brothers. Kenai’s experiences on this journey teach him the true meaning of manhood and brotherhood, the very tenants of the love at the root of his spirit.
Five screenwriters fashioned the magical original story for the film (Tab Murphy, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton, Steve Bencich, Ron J Friedman) setting the tale just after the Ice Age has ended with these Native Americans closer to the Earth and its inhabitants than would have been so in a different time and place. There are exquisite scenes of the three brothers horseplaying with one another that seem so very real, and yet once the transformation occurs, one simply slides right into the film’s shift in tone as the character’s picaresque allows him to see the world through fresh eyes with a number of surprises along the way. It’ll be a hard-hearted viewer who manages to get through the film’s final ten minutes without needing a tissue. By this time, Disney had moved away from doing traditional animated musicals, so the Phil Collins tunes used in the film are applied as background commentary to complement the visuals. The title song “Brother Bear” is by far the best of the lot (amazing it wasn’t Oscar nominated) as Kenai tells Koda the truth about himself, and the jaunty “Welcome to Our Family Time” when the two bears finally join a group of bears running salmon is also a welcome sequence. Directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker also change aspect ratios and color timing going from rather narrow to wide and somewhat drab to vividly colorful after Kenai’s transformation offering stunning visuals of animated vistas as the duo make their way through Canada toward Alaska.
Voice work throughout is excellent. Joaquin Phoenix’s headstrong Kenai who gets taken down a few pegs from his experiences in the wild is continually interesting and earns our loyalty despite numerous missteps along the way. As his two brothers, D. B. Sweeney and Jason Raize are alternately wise and brash as they follow their own destinies. Jeremy Suarez has all the irritating spunk and sass as the youthful Koda that make him a lovable brother-to-be for Kenai. As the film’s comic relief, Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis bring their SCTV McKenzie brothers to the screen in the forms of two rather lunkheaded moose Tuke and Rutt. While a little of them goes a long way, they do earn quite a few off-the-cuff laughs as they try to bond with Kenai who’s having a hard enough time keeping Koda in line. The unmistakable voice of Michael Clarke Duncan enlivens the salmon catching sequence as big bear Tug.
Brother Bear 2 – 2/5
When his childhood friend Nita (Mandy Moore) grows up and is ready to marry Atka (Jeff Bennett) from another tribe, the spirits reject the union because Nita and Kenai (Patrick Dempsey) had pledged loyalty to one another when they were kids. So, she must find Kenai and under a spell which allows her to understand his bear speech and her human speech, they must together destroy his talisman she had been wearing all these years. At first Nita and Kenai are strangers resentful of the other’s newfound lives without the other, but as they journey to the waterfall where their pledge was made, the two rediscover each other and revel in their bond, something that doesn’t please young Koda (Jeremy Suarez) at all since he sees his brother potentially wanting to leave his life as a bear and return to humankind.
With not a touch of romance in the original film, it was inevitable that this sequel would be fully focused on that aspect of the animal kingdom. Even the dim bulb moose Tuke (Dave Thomas) and Rutt (Rick Moranis) find ladies to their liking (voiced by Andrea Martin and Catherine O'Hara) and spend the length of the film trying to win their favor. But there isn’t a second of this uninspired second film that is fresh or funny. The silly, attention-deprived moose have ceased being amusing, and Nita isn’t a particularly likable or notable character either. The other comic relief, the two aloof moose who taunt the two brothers and Nita’s fussy aunties who want the final say in her wedding (played by the talented Wendie Malick and Kathy Najimy),are tiresome rather than appealing, too. Besides Moranis and Thomas, the only other returning voices from the original are Jeremy Suarez’s Koda and Michael Clarke Duncan’s Tug who drops by for a couple of brief appearances (with family in tow). As in the original, songs complement the on-screen visuals making this a not-quite musical. Melissa Etheridge has written some fine songs to mirror on-screen events including the touching “It Will Be Me” and the introductory “Welcome to This Day.” Otherwise, Ben Gluck’s direction stretches the brief movie into what seems like two hours, and Patrick Dempsey doesn’t quite capture the same nuances of awe and the loving bond that Joaquin Phoenix displayed in the original (though he gives it an honest and commendable effort).
Brother Bear – 5/5
For the early scenes before his transformation, the screen offers the 1.85:1 aspect ratio windowboxed so that when it expands to 2.35:1 (1080p resolution using the AVC codec) when Kenai becomes a bear, the resulting visual experience marks a breathtaking change, and it works quite well. Sharpness is solid throughout with the line animation never shimmering and with no evidence of banding anywhere in the image. Colors are breathtaking in the full widescreen sequences with yellows, oranges, and reds deeply saturated but never blooming. Black levels are also superb. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Brother Bear 2 – 4/5
The film is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Naturally, the animation is leagues away from the detail and vivid imagery in the original film. For the most part, it looks like animation for television with nice color that isn’t richly saturated and lines that are mostly solid but are prey to occasional pixel breakup. There is no banding in the image. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
both films – 4/5
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix in the first film shows Phil Collins’ songs and Mark Mancina’s score to best advantage with a wide spread through the soundstage. Elsewhere, however, the use of the entire range of speakers is limited, not always capturing the greatness and grandeur of the Canadian wilderness fully. Dialogue has been well recorded and is mostly placed in the center channel though there are several instances of directionalized dialogue which give nice depth to the audio encode.
In the second film, the songs and background score by Melissa Etheridge, Matthew Gerrard, Robbie Nevil, and Dave Metzger again form the most consistent application of the entire front and rear soundstage. Otherwise, the mix leans much more toward the front channels for sound effects though an even greater use of the fronts and rears for directionalized dialogue is applied here. Most of the key dialogue, of course, is in the center channel. The LFE channel does get a few moments to shine, particularly during an avalanche sequence.
The audio commentary for Brother Bear is an improvised riff by Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis in character as the dim-witted moose Tuke and Rutt. For those who can’t get enough of their satirical Canadian doofuses, the track will be a highlight of the disc but otherwise steer clear.
The production featurettes are all in 480i.
“Paths of Discovery” is the film’s production documentary, 44 ¾ minutes featuring directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker, producer Chuck Williams, executive producer Roy Disney, and musician Phil Collins among others discussing the five year production of the film from its origins through the choices of nature palette, folklore inspirations, the actors playing the brothers, the bears, and the moose, and the use of songs and background score.
There are three deleted scenes plus an introduction all of which may be viewed separately or together in one 11 ¼-minute grouping.
“Koda’s Outtakes” finds actor Jeremy Suarez introducing some especially animated goofs by the animal and human characters. It runs 2 ¾ minutes.
“The Fishing Song” which was deleted and “Welcome to Our Family Time” substituted is presented with a Phil Collins introduction. It runs 3 ¾ minutes.
“Transforming” with Phil Collins’ lyrics translated from Eskimo to English in subtitles runs 2 ½ minutes.
A sing-along for “On My Way” runs 4 minutes.
“Look Through My Eyes” music video is performed by Phil Collins and runs 4 minutes.
“Bear Legends: Native American Tales” recounts three brief Eskimo tales about bears that lasts 3 ¼ minutes.
“Making Noise: The Art of Foley” finds actor Jeremy Suarez touring the Foley stage and assisting in the production of sounds for the movie. This runs 3 ¼ minutes.
“Art Review” features narration by art director Robh Ruppel and supervising animator Byron Howard showing artwork, conceptions, and models of locations and characters in various stages of their transformations for the film. This runs 10 minutes.
There are 1080p promo trailers for The Little Mermaid 3D, Monsters University, and Planes.
Brother Bear 2 contains only the brief featurette “Behind the Music” which runs 8 ¼ minutes. In it, producers Jim Ballantine and Susan Kirch, Disney toon head Matt Walker along with director Ben Gluck, singer Josh Kelley, and singer/composer Melissa Etheridge discuss the use of songs and background music in the movie. It’s also in 480i.
The second and third discs in the set (stacked on top of each other) are the DVD versions of the two movies on separate discs.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Never one of the recent films termed a “Disney classic,” Brother Bear remains a funny and touching animated saga worthy of a reevaluation. The Blu-ray release offers a wonderful video and audio transfer along with the lesser 2006 sequel in one package.