Brother Bear 1 & 2
Brother Bear (April 19/11)
The 44th Disney animated movie, Brother Bear follows Inuit hunter Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix) as he's magically transformed into a bear by the spirit of his dead brother - with the film subsequently detailing Kenai's adventures alongside several other woodland creatures (including Rick Moranis' Rutt and Dave Thomas' Tuke). There's little doubt that Brother Bear suffers from as underwhelming a first act as one could envision, as filmmakers Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker place a pervasive emphasis on the less-than-enthralling exploits of Kenai and his human brethren (eg Kenai attends a spiritual ceremony). It's not until the protagonist becomes a bear that Brother Bear starts to improve, with the colorful assortment of supporting characters playing an instrumental role in perpetuating the movie's affable atmosphere. The episodic narrative does, however, ensure that the film is often just as dull as it is engaging, as many of the individual segments within the proceedings are simply not as engrossing as Blaise and Walker clearly want them to be - with the uneven vibe compounded by an overuse of songs by co-composer Phil Collins (eg there are only so many musical montages one can comfortably take). The end result is a watchable yet forgettable animated endeavor that's clearly been geared towards small children, which cements the movie's place as one of the more disposable entries within Disney's body of work.
Brother Bear 2 (April 22/11)
As Brother Bear 2 opens, Kenai (Patrick Dempsey) is enjoying his new life in the forest as a full-fledged bear - with his days apparently spent frolicking and having fun with his surrogate brother, Koda (Jeremy Suarez). Problems ensue as a former love interest (Mandy Moore's Nita) tracks Kenai down and explains that she can't get married until the two of them destroy a pendant that he gave her when they were kids. Kenai and Nita subsequently embark on a journey to a special place where the pendant is to be melted down, with the growing bond between the pair leaving Koda confused and hurt. There's little doubt that Brother Bear 2, for the most part, comes off as an affable yet entirely needless piece of work, as filmmaker Ben Gluck, working from Rich Burns' script, is generally unable to wholeheartedly capture and sustain the viewer's interest - with the ongoing emphasis on stand-alone segments (eg the central trio run afoul of several violent raccoons) ensuring that the movie is only sporadically engaging. The pervasive lack of momentum is exacerbated by Burn's reliance on elements of a decidedly familiar nature (eg Koda's jealousy over Kenai and Nita's bond), with the film's one saving grace the continued appearances by the irreverent moose characters from the original (Rick Moranis' Rutt and Dave Thomas' Tuke) - which cements Brother Bear 2's place as a passable sequel that won't exactly bore adults but has clearly been designed to appeal primarily to younger viewers.