Jab’s Disney Reviews: Brother Bear & Home On The Range

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BROTHER BEAR (2003):
Written by:
 Tab Murphy, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton, Steve Bencich & Ron J. Friedman

-I figured “what the hell?” and rented this one- it’s one of the latter-day Disney films, and didn’t do to well or get very well-received, but it’s… okay. Ish. It basically has some cool set pieces and one VERY awesome transformation sequence that reminds you how mind-blowing this studio is, but then spends the rest of the movie being kind of boring and sucky. No real villain, only one memorable song (the rest is the crap Phil Collins didn’t want to use for Tarzan), no love story, very little drama after a point, and the story is ridiculously by-the-numbers. Disney has done Animal Movies better, Lesson Movies better, animation better, and more- this just comes across like some half-assed idea someone had, and nobody could think of a better one until it was too late.

The whole thing is that Kenai kills a mother bear after his oldest brother dies rescuing him from it, and as penance, is transformed into a bear himself. At this point, the whole “Inuit Culture” package (which is done better than Pocahontas and her boring-ass tribe of natives) drops away and it become an Animal Movie, with Kenai The Bland (he’s sort of like a disrespectful, impulsive teenager… but just dull) and an Annoying Kid Character in Koda, and they meet some “funny” side characters (I wonder if the Bob & Doug Mackenzie-voiced Moose Brothers can be considered racist- it would be if they were using accents from another RACE, I tell you what. This anti-Canadian racism shall not stand!) and have some mediocre adventures involving very little actual threat. This movie’s just… bleh.

The main point is that Kenai at some point recognizes that the little bear he’s befriended is actually the SON of the bear he killed at the beginning of the movie, and has to confess it.

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KENAI
-Kenai is, like I said, pretty boring. He’s impetuous without being a total wild-child, and his killing of the bear may lead to the movie’s greatest moment, it’s hardly as world-destroying as the movie makes it out to be.

About the Performer: Joaquin Phoenix is a famous actor and general weirdo who does great work, but is from an annoying family of goofs, and so turns off people with “performance” stuff like “I’m gonna be a rapper now”. He was very good as Johnny Cash, which proved the Academy will always reward the Best Imitation come awards season :). Hollywood has loved him since his youth, and was only too happy to push him in the 2000s when his stuff started doing well. However, his mockumentary rap thing bombed, leading to an exile for a few years, and then a series of critically beloved bombs derailed him once more. And then he played the Joker in 2019 and won an Oscar for it in a movie that made a billion dollars (though he seems more artsy and “doing it for the work” so I doubt he cares).

Reception & Cultural Impact:
The movie did pre-e-e-e-e-etty well, I guess (out-grossing most of the movies between the Renaissance and then- such as AtlantisHome on the Range and Treasure Planet), but didn’t blow any minds, and the reviews were decidedly mixed. It got a Straight-To-Video Sequel, but an art form nearly died with the FOLLOW-UP…


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HOME ON THE RANGE (2004):
Written by:
 Will Finn, John Sanford, Michael LaBash, Sam Levine, Mark Kennedy & Robert Lence

-One of the most forgotten Disney Canon films of all time, this one nearly led to the death of traditional animation in the United States. Seriously, it’s Roseanne playing a cow (in the movie, too!) who leads other cows in attempting to save their farm by… capturing a bad guy who has a reward on his head. THIS IDEA CAME FROM THE SAME STUDIO THAT MADE SLEEPING BEAUTY. This is like an idea that would pop into the third-tier story of an ArchieComic (“let’s save the Chock’lit Shoppe by winning the reward money!”), not a multi-million dollar animated film. The ugly-ass art style and the country music were just icing on the cake- the country music that’s popular THESE days is virtually indistinguishable from Pop Rock and features scrawny young blondes singing about break-ups, not cows singing about Western crap. Okay, so I’m judging the movie without seeing it… so did everyone else, which is why it bombed.

The movie has one of those fabulously stupid origin stories that consists of changing the entire theme of the movie numerous times (it started out as a movie about an Undead Cattle Hustler versus a timid cowboy, then featured a little bull named “Bullets”)- in 1999, when the project had fallen apart, Michael LaBash came up with the “bounty hunters” idea to make sure all the character design didn’t go to waste. Because, you know, THAT’S why you create a movie. To not waste all the drawings.

The movie is actually mostly staffed by has-beens. Roseanne was WAY out of her Roseanne peak at the time when she played the main character. Judi Dench has credibility of course, but is no box-office all-star. Jennifer Tilly & Cuba Gooding Jr. were both more known for 1990s performances, and were both done as stars by this point, too. Randy Quaid, the yodeling bad guy, wasn’t terribly huge, either.

Reception & Cultural Impact:
-This one almost nobody on Earth saw, and it’s seen as the film that nearly killed all of Traditionally Animated Films PERIOD, such was its death at the box office. It was a dramatic box office failure, not making back its budget (a nearly-unthinkable situation following the Renaissance). The critics’ reviews were basically 50/50 as well- a big failing for Disney. It was mostly seen as “funny enough, but childish”, though some liked that they didn’t bother to put in any big lessons (you know… EMOTIONS) into the thing.

And so with Disney seeing the Pixar movies make a ton of money by comparison to their own pictures, they made the fateful decision to switch to CGI animation from then on. Arguably learning the wrong lessons from this one bombing (it’s probably more about good ideas & characters versus bad ones, not just flashy CGI), though Disney producing so many weak traditionally-animated movies in a row probably did a better job of convincing audiences that “CGI = Good” than anything else.

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