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Brother Bear

Voiced by Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, D.B. Sweeney, Jason Raize
Screenplay by Tab Murphy and Lorne Cameron & David Hoselton and Steve Bencich & Ron v J. Friedman
Songs by Phil Collins
Directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker

IN SHORT: A real mish mash of ideas but a fine first movie if you've got single digit kidlets to treat. [Rated G. 85 minutes]

That being stated, we can count the number of big screen movies suitable for the single digits in, well, single digits. Depending on whether or not we remove from the list the movies that are derived from kidlet friendly cable and television programs sometimes that number can run close to less than zero. Disney's animated Brother Bear stitches together production ideas dating as far back as The Lion King -- the final post of a theme song synchronized with a title card; incredibly stupid, and also incredibly funny. supporting characters and half a dozen (give or take) peppy songs to drive everything along.

The songs, in this case by Disney vet Phil Collins, are flat out terrible. Added to a story which is emotionally plain and you've got a film fit for the small screen. It isn't that the emotional peaks and valleys aren't built into the script, it's that the voice work doesn't convey them.

Brother Bear begins as the story of three brothers with the youngest Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix) as the star of the show. Oldest brother Sitka (D.B. Sweeney) will join the Great Spirit saving his brothers from a hungry bear while hunting brother Denahi (Jason Raize) swears revenge for that death. And dontcha just know that, thanks to some mystical yadda yadda that could only be explained by the grandmotherly spiritual leader of the tribe, Tanana (Joan Copeland), Kenai is transformed into the bear that Denahi chooses as the object of his anger.

While Kenai learns his bear necessities, he is befriended by a cute as a button bear cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez), mooses Rutt and Tuke (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), bear clan leader Tug (Michael Clarke Duncan). Random animal voices are all comic relief, because the four legged beasties are none too swift as far as the gray matter is concerned, provided by Estelle Harris, Greg Proops, Daniel Mastrogiorgio and Paul Christie.

We ignored the Hawaiian sounding names on North American natives but we did a double take when prehistoric mammoths showed up to share the screen with our friendly bears. 'Tis a good thing this is a 'toon because we'll not get too anal about detail. The wish to make this film across the board family friendly didn't do much to hold our singularly adult attention. If you have kidlets to treat, do so. Given those circumstances we follow a historic precedent and don't put the usual dollar rating on the film. Considering Disney's track record with developing stories that work for both kids and adults, that means we're disappointed.

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