Brother Bear 2 A Simple, Fun Story

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Disney’s Brother Bear 2 is one of the better of the crop of sequels released by Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.  Unlike sequels such as Mulan II and The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Brother Bear 2 lives up to the reputation and label of a sequel.  This roughly hour and five minute long movie picks up not long after the events of its predecessor.  Kenai and Koda are enjoying life as bear brothers out in the wilderness.  Enter Kenai’s old childhood friend Nita (Mandy Moore), and just as with other Disney romances, it leads to a very difficult choice to be made by the protagonist (I.E. Kenai).  Kenai is forced to choose between life as a bear or returning to human form so that he and Nita can marry.  Sure, it’s a predictable story.  But the messages of love and sacrifice make up for that predictability.  Add in a relatively short run time, the return of both Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as everybody’s favorite pair of moose, musical backing from none other than Melissa Etheridge (who can easily be mistaken for Sean Lennon), and animation that is just as solid as the previous movie in this franchise, and viewers get a movie that actually stands out as one of the better sequels in Disney’s modern era.

The central plot of Brother Bear 2 has already been explained.  Just as the story is simple enough for viewers of all ages to understand, so are the messages tied into the story.  The most obvious message of Brother Bear 2 is the same as any romance movie.  That message is that true love conquers all.  Tied directly into this is that true love means true sacrifice.  And a sacrifice (albeit a predictable one) is made.  What that sacrifice is will be left for viewers to find out for themselves.  It’s one from which parents will take more value than their children.  Though, as heartwarming as the story is, the sacrifice in question will mean more to children when they get older as this movie is worth more than just a passing glance once or twice.

The messages contained in Brother Bear 2 are ones that both children and adults will value and appreciate with each viewing.  Appreciation of the messages will also lead to appreciation of the movie’s central story.  It’s a relatively easy story to follow.  This applies to both children and their parents.  And unlike Brother Bear, the story it’s just over an hour long. The run time on the new triple disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack lists this animated feature at seventy three minutes.  The actual feature itself runs just over an hour.  This is a good fit for younger viewers, especially considering the general attention span of the movie’s intended audience.

The story and run time of Brother Bear 2 are the most notable of this movie’s positives.  Though there is more that can be said of it.  Another of its positives is the musical backing of another famous musician.  Melissa Etheridge explains in the movie’s behind the music feature, explaining how she came to be part of the movie and what writing and performing its songs meant to her.  Her discussion of the song played in the movie’s closing minutes (that moment won’t be given away as it would be a spoiler) helps audiences to better understand the importance not just of the music, but of the moment in question.  Understanding this, one can’t help but go back and watch the moment in question again, as well as other important moments throughout the movie.  Watching them again (as Rutt and Tuke note in the bonus commentary from Brother Bear) gives them whole new meaning.  The same applies in watching the movie for its animation.

The animation of Brother Bear 2 is just as impressive as in Brother Bear.  That can especially be noted of the sequences involving the Northern Lights.  One can’t tell if they were digitally created or crafted cell by cell, frame by frame.  And what is believed once more to be the Northern Canadian wilderness is just as impressive as a background to the story.  The detail in the snowcapped mountains and the waterfalls is beautiful.  It shows yet again that digital and hand drawn animation can co-exist and really should rather than letting digital animation take over as much as it has.  It would be wonderful to see not just Disney but every company that sets out to make an animated feature do what this movie and Brother Bear 2 have done.  Brother Bear 2 is available now alongside Brother Bear in a brand new triple-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.  It’s available in stores and online.  It can’ be ordered online via the Disney Store at http://www.disneystore.com/brother-bear-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331569/1000316/ and via the Walt Disney Home Entertainment store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/brother-bear-two-movie.html.

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Brother Bear A “Beary” Fun Family Flick From Disney

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Brother Bear is one of the better animated features from Walt Disney Studios in the company’s modern era.  This unsuspectingly enjoyable feature came at a time when the company was churning out a pretty big number of pieces that were largely being panned by the press and audiences alone.  Considering this, Brother Bear could not have come along at a better time.  Its largely animal cast, simple story, impressive mix of hand drawn and digital animation, general lack of song cues (though there are songs peppered in), and comedy make it a wonderfully piece for the whole family.  Though, it should be noted that some scenes early in the story that might be a little bit scary for much younger viewers.  Despite that and what so many critics had to say of this movie, it’s a welcome return to form of sorts for Disney.

The story behind Brother Bear is simple enough for viewers of all ages to follow.  It sends an obviously environmentally themed message through its story.  Audiences are introduced in this story to young Native warrior Kenai (pronounced keen-eye).  Kenai lives in what appears to be an unnamed corner of prehistoric era Canada.  This seems to be the case being that included among the mostly animal cast are mastodons and a pair of moose (played wonderfully by veteran actor Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas).  Audiences will love the comic relief provided by Moranis and Thomas.  They expertly serve to alleviate the story’s more emotional moments and bring viewers back from said moments.  Young Koda (Jeremy Suarez) offers his own share of funny moments, too.  The story though, centers on Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix).  Kenai learns a very valuable lesson about respecting Mother Nature and all of her creatures after he kills a bear that killed his brother.  He killed the bear because he did not understand or know that the bear in question was only defending her child, who turns out to be Koda.  Upon killing the mother bear, Kenai is then forced to live as a bear and see life from a different vantage point.  It’s sort of the message of “walk a mile in my shoes.”  This adds an extra element to the otherwise environmentalist plot line, and thus adds more depth to the overall presentation.

The cast and the story are both positive elements in the overall presentation of Brother Bear with their mix of emotional depth and comic relief.  They together make for their own share of enjoyment in this movie.  The mix of traditional hand drawn and digital animation add even more depth to the presentation.  The colors are so deep and rich throughout each scene.  And even the digital animation used in correlation with the more traditional hand drawn art is just as incredible when viewed on an HDTV in “cinema” setting.  The difference between the hand drawn and digital animation is noticeable.  However, one doesn’t overpower the other thus making each scene more fluid.

As one can already tell, there is a lot to like about Brother Bear.  It impresses with its animation and with its balance of comedy and drama through a well stocked voice cast.  And the story is simple enough to keep audiences engaged throughout its near ninety minute run time. There is at least one more aspect of this underappreciated movie that makes it enjoyable for audiences.  That aspect is that it doesn’t follow the standard formula for so many of Disney’s musicals.  There are musical numbers.  But unlike so many of Disney’s musicals, this movie boasts music from the likes of Phil Collins to aid in setting the emotional tone of given scenes.  That aspect mixes with the positive message of family and its other positive aspects to make Brother Bear one more movie that stands out as one of the better releases of Disney’s modern era.  It is available now alongside Brother Bear 2 in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct online via the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/brother-bear-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331569/1000316/ and at the Disney DVD Home Entertainment Store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/brother-bear-two-movie.html

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Home Run Showdown A “Hit” For Families

Courtesy: Image Entertainment

Home Run Showdown is a “hit” for families.  But it is in itself not a home run.  One part Bad News Bears (the 1976 original, not the most recent remake), one part Mighty Ducks, and one part Little Giants (just on a baseball field), this story mixes the standard underdog sports story with the family split plotline that’s seen in Little Giants(1994).  On the surface, the comparisons to The Bad News Bears (1976) are far too obvious.  Just as in that original baseball flick, a young ragtag group of baseball players is led by a washed up ex-minor leaguer to great heights.  Matthew Lillard (Scooby Doo, Scooby Doo 2) fills the shoes of the late great Walter Matthau this time out. 

The Bad News Bears isn’t the only movie from which this movie very liberally lifts.  Just as Rick Moranis and Ed O’Neill went toe to toe in the pee-wee football movie, Little Giants (1994), so do Lillard and co-star Dean Cain (Lois & Clark:  The Adventures of Superman) here.  To their credit, the feud between Joey and Rico is very believable.  The sibling rivalry between these brothers is very real.  There are so many families out there today who still suffer great rifts because of something that happened many years ago.  And as angry as Joey gets at Rico at some points, some older audiences may just be waiting for Joey to punch out Rico.

Audiences will love to hate Rico.  And that audiences will so love to hate him shows that Cain did his job.  At the same time, watching Joey (Lillard) grow from not caring what he was doing to really caring about the whole team will make older audiences cheer for him that much more.  At the same time, his lack of drive early on will make audiences want to hit him on the head and tell him to get up just as much as the kids on his team wanted.  Just as Rico made audiences hate him, Lillard’s ability to garner an emotional response from viewers means that he did his job, too.  In the same vein, Barry Bostwick (Spin City) is just as believable as the brothers’ frustrated father.

Lillard, Cain, and Bostwick did a wonderful job in this movie.  The trio carried it on its own.  But they weren’t the only cast to make the movie worth a watch.  Supporting actor Wayne Duvall was just as despicable as Commissioner Simpson.  In Simpson, audiences see a man who was stuck in his old ways, doing everything he could to keep a girl off of a baseball team, and basically keep the Cubs down for his own personal biases.  While he wasn’t a major player in the cast, Duvall’s portrayal of Simpson added that much more enjoyment to the story, as there are sadly still people like Simpson out there, too.
Home Run Showdown may not be the most original sports movie ever written.  But it does boast a cast that makes for a lot of heart.  It makes for enough heart that it’s worth at least one watch.  Home Run Showdown is available in stores and online now on DVD and blu-ray.

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