Alright, we’ve reached the last of my three sequels that I actually own. While this wasn’t put out by Walt Disney Animation Studios, (instead DisneyToon), I’m still fitting them in where they should go.
Unlike my other two sequels (Return of Jafar and Lion King 2), I had absolutely no want to see this when it came out. I liked Brother Bear just the way it was, and I worried that they would completely destroy everything that I loved about the first movie.
Well… I guess they tried not to….??? There’s mixed results. Which is interesting because this movie is actually rated higher than the original on Rotten Tomatoes AND IMDB. Maybe I’m the only one who liked the first movie? I don’t think that’s true.
Anyway, I caught this on netflix, watched it, and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t so incredibly horrible I wanted to kill myself. Would I rate it higher than the first one? No. Not at all. I don’t understand how this happened at all.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
Kenai’s still a bear, and has been plagued recently by dreams of he and his childhood friend, Nita and a trip they took one time where they promised each other they’d be together forever, and he gave her a pendant. He tells Koda about it, then wonders what she’s been up to, as he hasn’t seen her in years.
Turns out what she’s up to is that she’s getting married, or trying to. An earthquake right before her wedding causes her, her father, and her tribe to come to the conclusion that the spirits believe there is something wrong with this union. After visiting the shawoman of her village, it turns out that the promise she made with Kenai long ago was a binding union, and if she wants to marry someone else, she has to travel with Kenai to the place they made the promise and burn the amulet. The Shawoman gives Nita the ability to speak bear, and she’s off to find him.
Once she finds Kenai and Koda, she talks them into taking her on this little adventure. Kenai and Nita begin to fall for each other again, remembering how much they had in common, and Koda learns about jealousy. Kenai helps her get over her fear of water, she helps Rutt and Tuke learn how to communicate with the opposite sex, and in the end, well…
I actually don’t want to give it away. You’ll just have to watch it.
Unlike the first movie which deals with ideas like walking in someone else’s shoes, perspective, and what it means to be a man, the second one deals with… love. But not love like the first movie, love like romcom love. the idea of a soul mate. It’s not half as serious about its lesson as the first one, because you could argue that falling in love and “soul mates” don’t exist.
This could be counted as a point against the sequel, but I honestly don’t mind. Not every movie has to be big, and I expect less from a sequel. For what it is, it’s pretty good. I actually really enjoy when movies discuss the idea of “soul mates” because it’s one of those things almost like magic or spirits: does it exist?
In this movie this idea, although not as “big” as in the first movie, is done well. We have the existence of the great spirits again and the aurora borealis acting as the keeper of all the old souls. What I find interesting in this one is we have “proof” again that they come down and affect things on the earth. The earthquake that happens during Nita’s wedding in the beginning is seen as this “proof.” The spirits were a good, interesting part of the first movie, and I’m glad they kept it in.
Now one thing I’m NOT happy they did was take the character of the shawoman and turn her into a joke. In the first movie, Tenana was serious about her dealings with the spirits. She was wise and understood things the way no one could. In this movie we get Nita’s Shawoman, Wanda Sykes (I don’t remember the character name because literally all I think about is the voice actor when she opens her mouth).
It’s incredibly distracting. She’s not serious. Nita goes to ask her what the earthquake meant, and what she has to do, and sure she gets answers, but it plays like a comedy club conversation. It’s the hardest scene for me to watch in the entire movie because when the first one took itself so seriously, this one pokes fun. I hate it. ugh.
Where this movie really shines is in its other characters. We have our returning favorites, like Kenai, Koda, Rutt and Tuke. All are voiced by the same actors except Kenai. They couldn’t get Joaquin Phoenix, so they got Patrick Dempsey instead. I will admit it takes a bit to get used to (especially if you watch one movie right after the other), but he’s not bad as Kenai. I would have preferred Joaquin, but it’s ok.
We get to see how Kenai and Koda’s relationship has changed. They’re super close, and while they act more like brothers, Kenai knows that he has to also be an authority figure. Koda enjoys his relationship with Kenai so much that when Nita comes in, he actually gets jealous. Wow. That’s realistic. Dad starts seeing a girl and spends more time with her instead of you. no wonder he’s pissed. His jealousy causes Koda to do some annoying things, but again, I could see a real kid doing this stuff.
It’s also to note that if you were annoyed with Koda in the first movie, I actually don’t think he’s as annoying in this one. They toned him down a bit. Sure he still blabs and tells stories, but the focus of this movie really isn’t on him. It’s on Nita and Kenai.
Ah yes, let’s talk about Nita for a second. Voiced by Mandy Moore (who would go on to Rapunzel fame), Nita is an amazing character for a sequel. I actually really like her. She’s developed, has more backstory than Kenai ever had in the first movie, and is a really good female character.
What I like about Nita is that she’s good at a lot of things and is brave, but the movie doesn’t act like this is a huge deal. So many other movies have these strong female characters and they’re labeled as “strange” or “weird” or “odd” because they’re not in their typical woman role. This movie doesn’t seem to care about that. “You want to go on a journey all by yourself into the wilderness to track down a bear? ok!” “you need to climb mountains and set traps and actually fend for yourself? OK!”
It’s not a big deal, the movie doesn’t act like it is, and the other characters don’t act like it is either. It’s an accepted thing, and because of it, we as the audience accept it. It’s refreshing and I enjoy that aspect of her character.
But Nita isn’t just crazy woman warrior. She also has depth. In this movie, it’s her phobia of water. Turns out when she and Kenai were kids, she fell through the ice and almost drowned. Kenai saved her, but ever since then she has this intense phobia of water to the point even a lake a few feet deep has her petrified, literally. It’s something that she’s not really willing to admit she has, but is instead this huge secret that comes out only when it’s important. Only then does Kenai help her overcome her fear.
The relationship between the two of them is pretty well done as well. They have this connection from when they were kids, and sure, at the beginning this movie plays like a horrible romcom – she hates him and only needs him to break the spell. Kenai agrees, but we always get the feeling that he’s still in love with her. What’s great about this movie is you can see that Nita is as well, but is afraid to admit it to herself. Is it because he’s a bear and it’s weird? I dunno. But eventually she lets herself get to know him again, and it’s nice.
Rutt and Tuke again are in the movie to serve for comedic relief, but also to act as a bit of a mirror of the message of the movie. In the first, it was about love and brotherhood and the idea of family. In this one, it’s Love – romantic love. They spend the entire movie attempting to woo these two female moose with no avail. It’s only when Nita adds in her opinion about doing what women would actually want do the two get anywhere. It’s a cute little storyline, and while they don’t add as much weight as the first movie did, it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
The animation on this movie is great – almost as good as the original. I know that’s not saying much, but I love my 2D drawn movies. No the aurora borealis isn’t done quite as well, but the mountains, forests, flowers, and characters are done well.
This movie does have songs in it too, which for me are very hit or miss. It opens with a song (or close to opens) that is almost trying to hard to be the first song in the first movie. But Melissa Etheridge’s song “feels like Home” is unbelievable. I want to own it but you have to buy the whole soundtrack on iTunes to get it (the songs from treasure Planet were like that too. boo!!!). And no i’m not into pirating music. Oh well.
All in all, this movie is a good sequel. It has the same characters we love, a solid story, new characters who are well rounded, action, comedy, and heartfelt moments. I just don’t think it hits the seriousness of the first movie in its message. But for what it is, it’s surprisingly solid.
I give Brother Bear 2 (2006) a 3.1 out of 5. For me, it just doesn’t have the magic of the first one.
Up Next: Meet the Robinsons (2007)