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Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2(2003-2006)
When a young Inuit hunter needlessly kills a bear, he is magically changed into a bear himself as punishment with a talkative cub being his only guide to changing back.
For more about Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 and the Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray release, see the Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on March 12, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jeremy Suarez, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Michael Clarke Duncan, Patrick Dempsey, Joaquin Phoenix
Directors: Aaron Blaise, Ben Gluck, Robert Walker (VII)
This Blu-ray release includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray Review
"Keep all that cuddly bear stuff to a minimum, okay, kid?"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, March 12, 2013
Disney is keenly aware of the appeal and reach of its catalog, down to the best and worst films under the Mouse House banner. Titles like Cinderella and Peter Pan arrive separately and to great fanfare, while other titles shuffle onto shelves en masse, sans the red-carpet treatment afforded their Platinum and Diamond Edition brethren. Last year, it was The Aristocats, The Rescuers, The Rescuers Down Under, Pocahontas, Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World, The Tigger Movie and Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, all of which released in a single week in August. This year the mois du jour is March, and the releases include Robert Zemeckis's Who Framed Roger Rabbit (the fan-favorite odd man out in the March 12th lineup) and a trio of 2-Movie Collection Blu-rays: The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Mulan and Mulan II, and Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2. (Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Atlantis: Milo's Return were originally set for March 12th as well but were unceremoniously and indefinitely delayed without explanation.) And, once again, the deluge is another hit or miss affair, with a classic live-action/animation hybrid, three solid (or at least decent) animated features and a near-unbearable batch of direct-to-video misfires.
Brother Bear, Disney's 44th animated feature, falls on the "at least decent" end of the spectrum, although the more critical your viewing, the more disgruntled your reaction will be. It may boast big ideas, a few daring choices and striking imagery, but it also boasts a number of fundamental problems, pawing at meaning and poignancy but never really going in for the kill. It lumbers, it growls, it gorges on everything within its reach. It huffs, it roars, it warms the heart. And yet it's ultimately as tame and harmless as it is easily dismissed and too quickly forgotten. Brother Bear 2, meanwhile, is one of the aforementioned direct-to-video misfires. It doesn't amount to much or surpass the original, and tends to belabor its few strengths. Part rehash, part functional followup, its saving grace is the adequately colorful, family-friendly adventure it entails, which young children will find mildly appealing.
Brother Bear - 3/5
With warm weather returning after a difficult Ice Age, three Inuit brothers -- Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), Denhai (Jason Raize) and Sitka (D.B. Sweeney) -- work together to survive, thrive and contribute to their tribe in the hopes of being recognized as men by their people. Tragedy soon strikes, though. Sitka sacrifices himself during a bear hunt to save his brothers, leaving an embittered and enraged Kenai swearing revenge on the beast responsible. But when Kenai tracks and kills the bear in retaliation, the Spirits exact vengeance of their own, turning Kenai into a bear; a bear Denhai, oblivious to his brother's transformation, begins to hunt aggressively. With his humanity on the line, Kenai sets out to undo his curse, albeit with the help of a few unlikely new friends: orphaned bear cub Koda (Jeremy Suarez), grizzly chieftain Tug (the late Michael Clarke Duncan) and Canadian moose duo Rutt and Tuke (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), among others. Before he can embrace the real change brewing inside, though, Kenai learns a series of important lessons about the the creatures of the forest and the circle of life.
It isn't just Kenai that undergoes a change. Directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker make a number of interesting choices early on, the most notable of which involves an arguably more dramatic transformation: a surprising shift from the somewhat duller, windowboxed 1.85:1 imagery of Brother Bear's first twenty-four minutes to the expressive, richly colored, 2.35:1 widescreen imagery that dominates the remaining film. Sadly, though, it doesn't lead to anything more significant than a singular, momentary visual impact, other than perhaps heightening the wonder and magic of the natural world. But that's Brother Bear's perpetual failing -- a breathtaking burst of inspiration that slowly but surely settles into a superficial rut -- again and again and again. Kenai is an intriguing character, even without much in the way of complexity. And yet the second he becomes a bear, we're dragged along on yet another predictable, Disney-dipped journey toward discovery and understanding, all facilitated by a pack of talking animals with plenty of feel-good one-liners, contrived conflict and pop culture references to go around. Worse, like Mulan and The Hunchback of Notre Dame before it, the lurches from comedy to drama (and back) aren't merely clumsy, they're jarring and unwelcome.
Kids won't mind the simplicity or the lurching, and certainly won't be bothered by the influx of comedy, furry slapstick and cute and cuddly anthropomorphism. Even at its most desperate 2003-04 hour, Disney Animation was still adept at getting one thing right: pandering to its target demographic. But just imagine Brother Bear as it would have been had the filmmakers adhered to Bambi's minimalistic risks and narrative rewards. Imagine the interplay between Kenai, his brothers and the bears; the weight and power of soft-spoken, nearly silent animals behaving like animals rather than four-legged humans; the removal of the Canadian moose gags and the addition of characters that do more than provide comic relief; the animation more in line with the film's opening moments than its jaunt into lighter, buddy-bear cartooning. Children would no doubt be less enthused, but the movie itself would be something refreshing and original: a hand-drawn animated marvel more in line with Disney's early classics than the studio's post-Renaissance misadventures in lowest-common-denominator talking-animal crowd pleasers.
Brother Bear 2 - 2/5
Brother Bear 2 sinks a bit deeper into the cartoon mire, forgoing the first film's grandeur for the most part to focus on Kenai (Patrick Dempsey, stepping in for Joaquin Phoenix) and a previously unrevealed relationship with a human. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The sequel opens as winter draws to a close. Kenai and Koda (Jeremy Suarez) find themselves entangled in a messy plot involving Nita (Mandy Moore), a girl from another tribe Kenai was meant to marry when the two came of age. That was before Kenai was, well, a bear, though, so you can see how that might complicate things. What follows is an extended bit of hemming and hawing in which Kenai is torn between his new life as an animal and his old life as a man. Kenai doesn't want to abandon Koda (which leads to some warm, heartfelt exchanges), Nita would rather spend her years with Kenai than third wheel Atka (Jeff Bennett), Koda wants Kenai to be happy but doesn't want to be left alone... round and round it goes, where it stops? You'll see it coming from a supernatural transformation away.
I remain baffled as to why Disney Animation is so obsessed with the trials and tribulations of arranged marriage -- it's hardly a hot topic among third graders -- and yet it continues to be a recurring theme in the studio's animated projects. Brother Bear 2's slapdash treatment, ambling script and direct-to-video production values naturally don't help, and only dilutes any subsequent drama or romance a more polished theatrical sequel might have offered. Kenai's life as a bear makes for a far less compelling story than the hunter's initial foray into the animal kingdom and the senseless heartstring plucking is more akin to pounding away at a war drum. The regression not only diminishes the decision Kenai made at the end of the first film, it bypasses the real meat of its premise. Specifically, how Nita deals with the fact that her betrothed isn't a human anymore. Fully expected and comically unavoidable as it is, the resolution that comes is neither satisfying nor properly nurtured, and only increases the ick factor exponentially. Apparently Nita's love transcends appearance and her own species, while Kenai's lifelong loyalty to his brother and people can't possibly compete with his half-year membership in the bear club. Try not to mull it over too much, though. Again, the ick factor spikes violently if you do.
Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Brother Bear - 4/5
Disney's faithful 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer initially presents Brother Bear windowboxed at 1.75:1 (with black bars on all sides) and then opens the image to 2.35:1 widescreen (with black bars at the top and bottom) at the 24:30-minute mark. Some will undoubtedly question the windowboxed presentation. However, presenting the film at true 1.75 or screen-filling 1.78:1 would lessen the intended impact of the aspect ratio shift. While less than ideal, particularly for viewers with Plasma or LED displays -- ideal being a true 1.75:1 image opening to a true 2.35:1 image, which can currently only be accomplished via projection -- it's the lesser of two evils and the best solution available. Thankfully, aside from prevailing banding that creeps in from scene to scene and a hint of aliasing inherent to the film's CG elements, the encode itself can be quite spectacular. Before the aspect ratio shift, colors pack punch but are a tad dull. After the shift, the palette is emboldened, suddenly brimming with more vibrant hues, more stunning primaries and richer, inkier blacks. Contrast remains consistently satisfying throughout, while pinpoint detail revels in crisp, clean line art, perfectly preserved animation and every nuance on display. Better still, significant macroblocking, noise and other issues are contained or altogether absent, and the image could only impress more if it weren't so prone to banding.
Click here for full review and additional Brother Bear screenshots
Brother Bear 2 - 4/5
The sequel's television-quality animation obviously disappoints compared to that of the first film, although not nearly as much as the lackluster animation that drags down other Disney direct-to-video sequels of the era. Fortunately, the studio's more-than-solid 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation helps alleviate most of the sting. Colors are warm and pleasant, primaries are vivid, contrast and black levels are able-bodied, and detail is exacting to a fault. Moreover, there isn't much in the way of compression artifacts or aliasing, and nothing in the way of the print damage and general unsightliness that plagued The Hunchback of Notre Dame II. The picture is pristine, and only a few instances of banding spoil the proceedings. All told, Brother Bear 2 and its presentation don't fare as well as their first film counterparts, but the source, not the encode, is largely to blame. Otherwise, no serious complaints here.
Click here for full review and additional Brother Bear 2 screenshots
Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Brother Bear - 4/5
Although I expected a somewhat fuller, more enveloping lossless experience, Brother Bear's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track nevertheless kept me firmly rooted in the soundscape. Voices are clear and well-prioritized, and rarely succumb to surging waters, battles to the death or the bombast of the film's most intense sequences. Low-end output is strong and dynamics are excellent too, digging deep whenever called upon without sacrificing subtlety or prowess. The rear speakers, meanwhile, are light but lively, paying fitting respect to the score and Phil Collins' songs, albeit occasionally at the expense of a more engaging soundfield. The expanse of the wilderness and the depths of the forest aren't as vast, involving or immersive as they could be, even if the original sound design, not the lossless track itself, is the chief culprit. Fortunately, Brother Bear's audio isn't laden with issues or oddities of any kind and does its job, time and time again.
Brother Bear 2 - 3.5/5
The direct-to-video sequel's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is a bit more front-heavy than the first film's lossless mix, but it's no less proficient. Dialogue is clean and intelligible, the LFE channel adds welcome weight and presence to a fairly weightless series of events, and rear speaker activity is decidedly decent, sparse and unassertive as it can be at times. There isn't much more to the DTV experience, unfortunately, and rare is the scene that takes advantage of the soundfield. Again, though, the culprit here, like Brother Bear, is the sequel's sound design; underwhelming and uninspiring, yes, but on point all the same.
Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Brother Bear - 3/5
Brother Bear 2 - 1/5
Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The orphan of Disney's March 12th releases, the Brother Bear 2-Movie Collection still delivers the goods when it comes to AV quality and, where the first film is concerned, supplemental content. There are ups and downs -- Brother Bear's video presentation being the high point of the release, Brother Bear 2's special features (or lack thereof) being the unmistakable low point -- but fans of the original film will be pleased with the collection's treatment overall.
Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Disney Prize Packs - March 7, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Walt Disney Home Entertainment are offering three members an opportunity to win one of three Disney prize packs. Assorted prize copies include Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Brother Bear 2-Movie Collection, Mulan 2-Movie Collection and The Hunchback of ...
• Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 Collection Blu-ray - December 19, 2012
On the same day that sees the Blu-ray debuts of Mulan and The Hunchback of Notre Dame comes the 2-Movie Collection BD/DVD Combo Pack release of Brother Bear and Brother Bear 2. The transformative adventures of Kenai and Koda arrive on Blu-ray on March 12, 2013 ...
• Roger Rabbit, Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan 1 and 2, Brother ... - December 18, 2012
In an early announcement to retailers, Disney has revealed that it will release on Blu-ray Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan 1 and 2 and Brother Bear 1 and 2. The release date of all four films are set to March 12, 2013.
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