DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)

    Patrick Dempsey as KENAI
    Mandy Moore as NITA
    Jeremy Suarez as CODA
    Rick Moranis as RUTT
    Dave Thomas as TUKE
    Andrea Martin as ANDA
    Catherine O’Hara as KATA
    Wanda Sykes as INNOKO

    Rated G
    Studio: Disney

    Directed by: Ben Gluck
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It is tradition in the Disney studios to make a direct-to-video sequel to most of their theatrical releases. They have yet to make the “Home on the Range” or “Treasure Planet,” but for the cuddly classics (even the not-quite classics), it’s standard operating procedure. Knowing this is their M.O., it was no big surprise that the studio released “Brother Bear 2” direct to DVD.

In general, these direct-to-DVD sequels have never been as good as the original. Sometimes they work pretty well, like the sequels to “Lilo & Stitch” or “The Lion King,” but even then they’re a far cry from the first film. It’s best to keep this in mind if you watch “Brother Bear 2.”

This new film continues the story of Kenai as a bear. He’s still palling along with his new little brother Koda, until they run into Nita, a girl Kenai knew when he was human. Nita is betrothed, but the spirits won’t let her get married because she’s already promised to another – Kenai. Nita must find Kenai the bear and go with him to destroy an amulet, which is a symbol of their promise. Of course, along the way, they fall in love.

Because the original “Brother Bear” will never really go down in history as an unalterable Disney classic like “Pinocchio” or any number of beloved films, the filmmakers aren’t treading on dangerous ground. While “Brother Bear” was cute, it did have its faults. I prefer to look at this sequel as a way to revisit the characters I enjoyed from the first film and watch a further adventure.

The plot doesn’t seem as forced as it could, although some scenes do bear a striking resemblance to parts of “Mulan II.” The process used to put together this film seems to have been given much more care than what normally goes into a direct-to-DVD feature.

Having recently traveled to Alaska, I gained a new appreciation for the background scenery and the location of this film. Having seen the great north of this country with my own eyes, I can say that the Disney animators (even the second team, which is used for the direct-to-DVD stuff) had a real grasp of the location.

The voice cast is decent, although predictably not as good as those in the original. Instead of Joaquin Phoenix, we have Patrick Dempsey (who probably signed onto this before his stint on “Grey’s Anatomy” gave him the steady job). There’s a nice selection of known voice actors here, which is a nice change from having the entire film voiced by Jim Cummings and Jodie Benson.

The only voice cast member I had a problem with was Wanda Sykes. She seems to be the flavor of the month, like this year’s Tracey Morgan. She’s been in four major feature films this year, and there seems to be no end in sight. Sorry if I offend any of the fans of Wanda, but I just find her unfunny and annoying. To quote a guy off the IMDb message board regarding her 15 minutes of fame: “It’s going an a half hour now and her one note is getting VERY old.”

The DVD has a featurette that takes you behind the music of the film. Unfortunately, the artist they used was Melissa Etheridge, and that’s a huge step down from Phil Collins’ work in the original. There’s also a trivia game, which the kids can play with a parent’s help.

The kids will love “Brother Bear 2,” especially if they loved the first film. It has a good message and some decent scenes. And the return of Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis as the idiot moose is nice, if not a little forced.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound. Family-friendly widescreen (1.78:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish language tracks. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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