Toon Talk: Brother Bear 2
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by Kirby C. Holt
Brother Bear 2
MPAA Rating: G
The Bear Necessities
From the advent of Disney's direct-to-video sequels back in 1994 with The Return of Jafar, purist fans could be counted on to periodically vent their outrage and frustrations with the oftentimes shoddy product that was trotted out every few months. And, for the most part, they were justified in the worries (if not their volume); overall, early examples ranged from the good (Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas) to the bad (The Hunchback of Notre Dame II) to the just plain awful (The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea).
But slowly and surely, the DTV sequels (and spin-offs, such as The Lion King 1 ˝) began to increase in quality, both story-wise and, most impressively, with the animation. While such titles as Cinderella II: Dreams Come True and Stitch! The Movie had substandard, Saturday morning-level production values, more recent releases such as Kronk's New Groove and, most especially, Bambi II, have displayed close to feature quality animation.
Happily, I report that the newest video follow-up, Brother Bear 2 (available today), falls into the latter camp, with lush backgrounds and top-notch character work to just about equal it's Oscar-nominated predecessor. But, quite impressively, BB2 does it one better by delivering a story that avoids the pitfalls of the first film, making it - dare I say it - actually better then the original Brother Bear.
Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, 2 finds Kenai (now voiced by Grey's Anatomy's "Dr. McDreamyâ€? himself, Patrick Dempsey) and Koda (returning Jeremy Suarez) awakening from their long winter's nap just in time to witness "Spring feverâ€? (i.e., in Bambi-speak: it's twitterpatin' time), which strikes their friends Tug (Michael Clarke Duncan) the burly bruin and moose brothers Rutt and Tuke (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, back to chomp on some more scenery). All this talk of love reminds Kenai of his childhood sweetheart Nita, whom he gave his special amulet (kind of like the Inuit way of "getting pinnedâ€?) many moons ago in a picturesque valley of waterfalls. But, as all that happened in his previous life as a human, he puts such thoughts out of his now-bear head and returns to caring for Koda.
Meanwhile, we meet Nita, all grown-up and voiced by The Princess Diaries' Mandy Moore, who is soon to be wed, Pocahontas-style, to a man she barely knows. After a Mulan-like makeover by her fussy aunts (The Emperor's New Groove's Wendie Malick and Sister Act's Kathy Najimy) and a big speech by her Powhatan-esque father (Jim Cummings), her nuptials are interrupted, none-too-subtly, by the "Great Spiritsâ€?. Confused by this turn of events, Nita turns to her tribe's shaman ... oops, make that sha-woman, Innoko (Over the Hedge's Wanda Sykes), who informs Nita that she is still "bondedâ€? to Kenai in the eyes of the Great Spirits. In order to be free to marry another, Nita and Kenai together must destroy the amulet in the exact location where he first gave it to her.