DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Brother Bear 2... Honestly Recommended

Discussion in 'DVD' started by DaViD Boulet, Aug 24, 2006.

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  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]
    Brother Bear 2
    Studio: Buena Vista Year:2006 Rating:GAspect Ratio: 16x9 encoded 1.78:1 Audio: 5.1 DTS English, 5.1 DD English/Spanish SpecialFeatures: 2 Behind the Music of Brother Bear ReleaseDate: August 29, 2006



    The Movie...


    There’s been a dearth of DVDs from the mouse lately so when Brother Bear 2 arrived on my doorstep I knew I needed to give it a review. I probably don’t have to explain my distrust of direct-to-video-sequels… so with a grimace and a groan, I removed the shrink-wrap, kicked on the projector, and sat back with my finger strategically hovering over the fast-forward button should the imperative to move the Brother Bear 2 experience along exceed the story’s own narrative pace.

    As the movie progressed, apprehensions gave way first to laughter and then, embarrassingly, to a watershed of tears.

    Dagnabbit. Ok, while not achieving the monumental status of “classic” among its brethren in the Disney-animation-library, Brother Bear 2 has succeeded in rising above the rabble of direct-to-video-sequels and materialized into an entertaining and touching story to be easily enjoyed by young and old alike. Brother Bear 2 will easily serve the role of portable-DVD-player-material for those long road trips where the kids need a beta-wave babysitter to keep them from fighting in the back seat. However, it’s also a great candidate to pull from the shelf when the whole family is ready to kick back after dinner and enjoy a movie that everyone can enjoy. Proceed with confidence.

    Brother Bear 2 still has the hallmark animation style typical of animated Disney titles not destined for the big screen. But similar to Bambi II the quality of the backgrounds and general animation are still far better than any Saturday-morning cartoon and it’s clear that some artistry is at work in the visuals despite the more “rushed” appearance in comparison to the refined classics we so revere.

    The story fits nicely in-line with the continuity of the original Brother Bear and while some of the scripting lacks polish, overall the writing is good and the voice-acting is excellent. Some good moments of humor are provided by the moose pair you may remember from the first film which is a pleasure. But the real strength of this sequel is in the heart-journey of Kenai (the bear), Koda (the cub) and Nita (the human). The themes of brotherhood, friendship, and love remarkably manage to come through with some dignity and don’t feel robbed of authenticity despite some predictable conflicts and resolution. The heart of this film is most profoundly communicated through the original music written and performed by Melissa Etheridge. I warn you. I ended up trading my remote-control for a box of tissues before this film finally wrapped up its Disney ending so be prepared. Melissa’s music is reason enough to watch this film for any Etheridge fan, as is the purchase of the CD soundtrack which this viewer is wasting no time in ordering as soon as it becomes available.





    The Picture...


    Man, it ticks me off. Can’t these guys learn their lesson? The first Brother Bear DVD was a soft-focus, edge-ringy mess with notable color-banding in the gradations of brown on the bears’ bodies and sky blues. (Brother Bear also happened to be the very first DVD I ever watched/reviewed on my then-new BenQ 8700+ DLP projector. Just a bit of random life-trivia from your reviewer here. Thanks for listening.)

    This new DVD is not quite as offensive and the fuller-height of the 1.78:1 image versus the 2.35:1 of the original movie helps with the perceived resolution to some degree. However, the soft-focus and lack of sharpness is still a problem for wide-angle viewers watching the film inside a “theatrical” ratio of 1.7 screen-widths or less. And sadly I did notice enough obvious edge-ringing to become annoying. The color-banding on the brown of the bears’ coats was even more bothersome however, and at times I found it pulled me out of the film experience. Granted, the DVI connection on my BenQ tends to make such “gradation stepping” more obvious than with component video… (this banding looks like paint-by-numbers stripes where the color-shades change abruptly rather than smoothly and evenly blending as they change hue over a large-field area of color), so you own impression of this artifact may vary depending on your viewing equipment. I also noticed some of the same “color stepping” in some fade-outs etc. Very distracting. Chances are what I’m seeing is as bad as it will look and some viewers with CRT gear or analog connections may not notice it nearly as clearly.

    One other thing bugged me… the hand-drawn character-contour lines don’t look steady and sharp but rather fuzzy and sort of noisily blur and twitter at times… almost like some DNR algorithm is struggling to figure out if they should stay or be air-brushed out and can’t make up its mind. I also noticed this same artifact on the recent Pocahontas SE DVD. These sorts of problems alarm me because they're not MPEG2 compression related and so they could, in theory, haunt us again as we start to get high-definition software from the mouse. Hopefully the native HD capture of this film is pristine and a future consumer HD version on Blu-ray/HD DVD won’t show these distracting artifacts.

    Other than that, the image looks ok with proper color balance (as intended by the artists to lend to warm tones), contrast, and black level.


    Picture Quality: 3.5 / 5

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Rating Rationale...


    Rating Key:

    SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch even on a 32” 4x3 480I TV. Think Outland or Jean De Flourette (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts etc.)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Kill Bill Vol 1. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements limited only by DVD’s 720 x 480 resolution. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW" and ask you if they are watching HD. Think The Empire Strikes Back, the Fifth Element Superbit or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.



    Viewing Equipment:
    Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.






    Sound...


    Don’t make the same mistake I did! I managed to watch the entire movie and *then* wondered to myself “Self, I wonder if there’s a DTS track on this disc” and there *was*. Grrr! Going back and watching the same scenes and toggling back/forth between DD and DTS revealed a noticeable increase in tonal naturalness with the DTS track in addition to more “air” and acoustic space in the sound. The speaker array also seemed to vanish with the DTS track while the (very good) Dolby Digital track seemed a bit flatter with the speaker locations more easily detectable to my ears. Both tracks are excellent but I think that even those with modest audio systems may hear a subtle-to-meaningful improvement with the DTS encoding in this case. Naturally, I want to hear this movie in lossless 24/96 on HD disc…

    [​IMG]

    The audio is fine. Nothing to complain about though the surround channels weren’t quite as active as I would have expected. However the balance of sound feels comfortable and the score and musical numbers by Melissa Etheridge (who wrote and sings her own original work for this film) are breathtaking… especially in DTS.



    Sound Quality: 4.5 / 5

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]


    Listening Equipment:
    B&K AVR 212 processor/receiver driving my Onix-Rocket Loudspeaker system.



    Special Features...



    Besides a game for the kids there’s just one special feature on this single-disc DVD edition but it’s EXACTLY the feature that ought to be here:

    [​IMG] Behind the Music of Brother Bear (Melissa Etheridge): [​IMG]

    Very, Very nice. Anyone who enjoyed the film and/or fans of Etheridge owe it to themselves to watch this marvelous short about the conception and production of music for the film. The artists responsible really put their heart into their work and it shows. Melissa is a class-act and her gift of music elevates this film in the context of the story and can be enjoyed on its own as soon as Disney releases the soundtrack to this film on CD. It always fascinates me how even low-profile projects like a direct-to-video sequel to a cartoon like Brother Bear can bring so many talented people together and produce such good things.

    Enjoy.





    All Together...


    Yes folks. It’s a direct-to-video-sequel that manages to impress this Disney fan. While not attaining the status of the veritable Disney classics, Brother Bear 2 manages to entertain and touch viewers with a pleasing story and moving score/soundtrack. While picture quality is not “big screen worthy”, the audio quality of the DTS track is impressive and the disc is recommended on the merits of the film and music alone. There is only one real special feature on this disc but it’s worthwhile: the music behind the film. Melissa Etheridge’s contribution to this project brings tangible depth to the movie and I can’t imagine the film without her songs much in the same way I couldn’t imaging Harold and Maude without Cat Stevens. If you want a benign beta-wave babysitter for the kids you’ve got another Disney DVD to add to your arsenal, and if you’re looking for another family-film the whole gang of all ages (parents included) can sit down and enjoy together you’ve found it. I’ll be giving this one another watch very soon… this time I’ll make that tissue box handy before I press play and turn out the lights.


    Honestly Recommended
     
  2. PeterTHX

    PeterTHX Cinematographer

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    Geez David, you're getting soft in your old age [​IMG]
     
  3. Bill Thomann

    Bill Thomann Supporting Actor

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    A thumbs up for a Disney direct to video cheapquel??? Donald Trump would say "You're fired!!!"

    I normally dismiss dtv without a second thought but you have seriously made me think about this one.
     
  4. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    To Disney's credit there have been a few video-sequels that were worth watching. Emperor's New Grove 2 and the Lilo/Stitch sequel come to mind. This one falls in that same category of "entertaining and worth watching" while still not being a perfect production masterpiece.
     
  5. Brendon

    Brendon Second Unit

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    To my shame I've not seen the original Brother Bear. Perhaps worth picking up in the inevitable 2 film pack?

    Excellent review though! Looking forward on your assessment of Mermaid.
     
  6. jeff strickler

    jeff strickler Stunt Coordinator

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  7. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    That's the one where the Emperor makes Kronk plant that orchard of apple trees? [​IMG]

    "Honestly", Dave. I had just been thinking I hadn't seen one of your reviews in a VERY long time (Little Mermaid cannot get here fast enough!). The ONLY reason I stopped in here was to see what you wrote. As always, a terrific review. Not enough to convince me to bite, mind you, but well done. If only new Disney projects could be as effective as your reviews! [​IMG]
     
  8. jim_falconer

    jim_falconer Supporting Actor

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    I watched this tonight with my two girls, and have to agree, it's a very worth while sequel. The final 30 minutes of the film really make it as good as it is, and like Dave mentioned...Melissa Etheridge's songs are outstanding.
     

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