Animating Halloween: Dead Space – Downfall Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A prequel to the popular horror game, Dead Space, Downfall centers around the story of the first and second attacks on Aegis VII, as well as what really happened on the planet cracker ship the USG Ishimura. Security Chief Alissa Vincent and her crew are dispatched to rescue any and all survivors when the colony on Aegis VII suffers from a rash of suicides and sudden murders after uncovering a strange alien artifact. When the Ishimura tries to recover the artifact, whatever spread over Aegis VII starts to infect those within the Ishimura.

Breakdown: I absolutely love Dead Space (Well, the first two anyway. Three was a disappointment to me) It’s one of my favorite game franchises. However, since homework is poo, we’ll be mostly focusing on how this movie fares as a standalone.

Dead Space is a very, very, very bloody and gorey series. The death scenes are usually incredibly graphic and even the way you defeat the alien creatures, known as necromorphs, is pretty damn brutal. Necromorphs are more or less immune to bullets. The only way they can really be destroyed is through lopping off their limbs and finishing them off by stomping on their bodies. You can also defeat them by setting them on fire and blowing them to bits, but the aforementioned method is the most common.

This movie does not fail in matching the bloodbath of the video game by a long shot. Many characters die in ridiculously gorey ways. One of which being so bad I actually cringed and looked away for a second, which is rare for me to do in a horror movie.

But we’re not here for the gore, we’re here for the scares. This movie is a bit more faltering in that area. There’s not a whole lot of ambiance to absorb and it’s mostly just hopping from one action scene to another. Downfall is really at its best from a horror standpoint when it’s focusing on the insanity that the crew is falling victim to. One of the most harrowing things about this story is that it doesn’t really matter if you survive because the marker is slowly making everyone go insane anyway. Even if you manage to get through the necromorphs and hide away somewhere, you’ll probably die on accident or be driven to suicide. Being in a group isn’t any better either since the insane ones in the group will most likely just start killing the others.

Sadly, the psychological torment that befalls much of the crew only delivers a few creepy and unnerving moments.

The necromorphs are scary in themselves. Necromorphs are both alien creatures by themselves and reanimated corpses mutated with alien features. Most necromorphs, particularly the ones featured in this movie, are slashers, which are mostly humanoid creatures with giant blades protruding from the arms.

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However, we also have the annoying infectors, which are flying necromorphs,

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the depressing lurkers, which are tentacle’d necromorphs made from babies

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and swarmers that can kiss my ass.

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Each have their own special abilities for killing and infecting other people, and all of which are varying degrees of frightening.

Story-wise, this one is rather simple, most of the better stuff reserved for the actual video game. It’s a pretty cut and dry ‘we tread where we don’t belong and now we’re fucked’ stories.

A mysterious alien artifact, known as the marker, is found by miners on Aegis VII. The church of unitology, essentially a cult in the Dead Space universe (and, yes, likely based on scientology in some respects, though the creators deny this) dispatch a crew on the planet cracker, the USG Ishimura, to retrieve the artifact and bring it back to earth. Unitologists believe the markers are sacred religious artifacts that are key in bringing eternal life and paradise to the human race. I won’t go into the true meaning and purpose behind the markers because they don’t explore it in the movie and it’s ultimately unimportant to this review. The point is, because of the marker, people on Aegis VII and eventually the Ishimura start going crazy and falling victim to the necromorphs, killing each other and killing themselves.

Alissa Vincent, Chief of Security on the Ishimura, is set out, albeit against the wishes of the captain, Mathius, who is secretly a unitologist, to rescue any survivors on board the Ishimura once the infection reaches the ship.

After that, it’s mostly a lot of action, necro killing, death scenes and ultimately pointless rescues because everyone dies.

I’m not going to apologize for no ‘spoiler alert’, and I’m not saying this because I’ve played the games – the movie itself tells you at the very start that everyone’s dead, including Alissa.

In regards to characters, that’s a major weak point of the story. There’s a rather sizable cast here, but mostly everyone is left with the same angry personality, spouting out the same lines you’d hear in any horror movie, such as those akin to ‘we don’t have time for this’ ‘hurry up’ ‘stop foolin’ around.’ etc. etc. It’s understandable that everyone’s on edge, but it’s not like they act any different before everything starts going to hell.

Alissa’s crew have a few lines of banter that make you think they might be close, but that’s about it. I barely remember anything about Hanson. I don’t even remember the big guy’s name. Shen’s only memorable because of her weird-ass haircut and the fact that she is frustratingly inept in most of her scenes only to become a badass in her final scene. The only characters who have any sort of real personality or backstory are Ramirez and Samuel Irons, an engineer and unitologist that they meet along the way. Ramirez seems like a slight lovable goofball and he gives us a drive-by of his backstory in one of those ‘I die in the next five minutes, so might as well tell my story’ scenes. Samuel Irons is interesting in how he seems to be very wise and skilled, but we don’t know anything else about him.

Even Alissa is, sadly, entirely uninteresting. She’s the most angry of the group and really does nothing but boss people around and swear. She gets no backstory and no layers to her personality. She’s fairly honorable and wants to do anything to save people, but that’s about it.

She also makes some stupid decisions – the biggest one being stopping Kyne from crashing the ship into the planet. He wanted to destroy the marker and stop the infection from reaching earth. Alissa wanted to save whatever survivors were on the Ishimura, even though such a feat would be incredibly unlikely at this point, so she beat the hell out of him and stopped the ship from crashing down….only to realize literally minutes later that everyone else was likely dead, she was screwed either way, and she had to sacrifice herself to get a warning message out about it. And what does the message say? She tells them to destroy the marker at all costs….Good job.

I guess it could be argued that she was acting irrationally due to the marker’s influence, but I doubt it. She only starts acting weird after she does this.

The most interesting story is happening on the bridge with Captain Mathius and Dr. Kyne, both of which being closet unitologists who are the only ones who know that the main point of this mission is to bring back the marker to earth, not to help those on Aegis VII.

For those Dead Space fans, there are some continuity errors created by this movie, but nothing that breaks the story or universe. One of the main things I believe most Dead Space fans would want to see in a Dead Space prequel is Nicole and, sadly, she just barely gets a cameo if the person in this movie is even her.

Alissa and Ramirez infiltrate a room where a bunch of medical personnel are holding themselves up because a bunch of slashers are banging on the door. One of the personnel is seen crying under a table and Alissa tries to get her to leave. She asks her if she has a boyfriend, she says yes. She asks if she wants to see him again, she says yes and they leave. This interaction seemed very weird and out of place when I first saw it, mostly because it seems odd to suddenly establish a connection with a flash in the pan nameless character, and because it seemed like such an odd question to ask. Most people would ask ‘do you have any family?’ or maybe a husband or kids or something. I was sitting there wondering why she immediately jumped to ‘boyfriend’.

It wasn’t until I was doing some post-watch research on the Dead Space Wiki that I became aware that this was supposed to be Nicole, Isaac’s (the game’s main character) girlfriend…supposedly.

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It’s not confirmed that this is her. They just surmise this based on how she looks and the fact that Alissa specifically asked about her having a boyfriend.

The art and animation are done by Film Roman, who have done work on The Simpsons, King of the Hill and Family Guy, but, trust me, this style is much more reminiscent of their other work, X-men Evolution. I was constantly thinking about that show when looking at this art before I even knew who produced it.

The animation definitely has its hiccups and it’s not as fluid as X-Men Evolution, but it’s not too bad.

The CGI shots, which are pretty well-done and integrated, are done by EA, the producers of the game. The only shots I question are the first shot of the Infector and the shot of Alissa against a huge herd of necros.

The music is very fitting, but not very memorable. I did squee a little when Twinkle Twinkle Little Star played, though.

The voice acting is pretty good with some of the more notable actors being Jim Cummings as Mathius and Kevin Michael Richardson as Samuel Irons. Alissa’s voice kinda got on my nerves, but she was acting pretty well.

Bottomline: Whether you’re a Dead Space fan or if you’ve never played the games at all, this is a pretty good horror movie that also acts as a nice setup for the first game. It’s not super scary, but it’s certainly never boring and there are some really awesome scenes of both action and horror here. The biggest weaknesses are the lack of characterization in Alissa and her crew and some craggy animation.

Recommended Audience: Like the games, this movie is incredibly gorey. People get slowly sliced in half vertically, there’s organs and bones everywhere, even if it’s not incredibly detailed, there’s a lot of slicing people and nercos to bits, people get their heads blown off and there’s one scene where a character dies due to having a hypodermic needle getting crammed into their eye. There’s also a lot of swearing, particularly by Alissa, and while there’s no sex, there is one scene of lower-bit male nudity in the bathroom. 17+

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Dreaming of Dreamworks: The Prince of Egypt

Rating: 9/10

Plot: In a telling of the Exodus story, a pharaoh named Seti has ordered the slaughter of many Hebrew babies. However, one baby is saved from the killing when his mother places him in a basket and sends him down the river in hopes of his survival in a better place. In a weird twist of fate, the baby is recovered from the river by the queen and her son, Rameses. He is adopted by the royal family and raised as their son Moses. He remains ignorant of his past until he runs into his blood sister, Miriam and brother, Aaron. As the truth of his past and his adoptive father come to light, Moses leaves the kingdom behind and later finds that he is destined for much greater things.

Breakdown: I am forever saddened that it has taken me this long to watch this movie. Welcome to The Prince of Egypt, Dreamworks second movie and a rare non-CGI movie from them. Well, okay, it’s not non-CGI. There’s plenty of CGI, but for the most part it’s regular cel-shaded animation. What is CGI is really well-done and cleverly integrated with the other animation. I’m almost shocked this came from Dreamworks because they always stay pretty clear behind Pixar in animation and art quality, but they did wonders with this. It is a visual treat to say the least, and this was made in 1998! The character art, animation and backgrounds still stand up extremely well to this day. Another movie I’d gladly rewatch for the art alone.

As stated, the story is the biblical telling of Moses and follows him all the way from him being a baby to his freeing of the Hebrew slaves. And it does not really screw around and make it all kiddie either. This is a pretty heavy movie. Granted, they still do a butt joke or two, but most of the goofy scenes are gone by the end of the first act.

You can sympathize with all of the characters, even Rameses, and you feel the emotional struggle between the two of them to go from brothers to basically mortal enemies in only the course of a couple of years. In a way, neither of them can sympathize very much with each other. Moses was not the blood son of Seti nor was he the eldest son, so he never had a lot of weight on his shoulders like Rameses did, and Rameses was never a slave nor did he wish to see the slaves as people who were worth anything. Doing so, in his eyes, would tarnish the ancient traditions which he was born to uphold.

The time skip is a little jarring but mostly just because Seti, the Queen (I think she’s the queen anyway. Moses is raised as Seti’s son so….*shrug*) and Moses’ mother, Jochebed, all seemingly die in that time when it seems like only a few years or so went by between Moses leaving and him getting the message from God. It’s understandable that Seti died because he was so old, but I have no clue what claimed the lives of the Queen and Moses’ mother. We also learn nothing of Rameses’ son.

The movie obviously takes some liberties with the story both with its religious historical roots and its Egyptian historical roots. To its credit, the movie admits that straight out of the gate. But it doesn’t stray too far from the path and is a pretty loyal adaptation of the story. I should also mention that the movie doesn’t cover the entire book of Exodus, just up to leading the Hebrews out of Egypt and a short glimpse of the Ten Commandments.

The music is phenomenal. It’s commonly set up much like a Broadway musical…I assume anyway, I’ve never seen one. But the music is epic. I’d say the only weak-ish link in the music section is “You’re Playing with the Big Boys Now” which just seems out of place considering how epic and serious the other songs are.

The point of that song is to show Moses that, despite the fact that he has the Hebrew God on his side, they have the various gods of Egypt on theirs, and if he wants a fight, he’ll get one. However, the chorus of ‘You’re playing with the big boys now’ just makes me feel like it’s a cheesy bully line.

Bottomline: Whether you’re religious or not, this is still a fantastic movie with amazing visuals, fantastic music, memorable characters, an exciting story and more. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you check it out. I wish Dreamworks did more stuff like this. Instead we got a billion Shrek movies…Also, Rotten Tomatoes gave Antz a 95 but this a 79? *huff*

Recommended Audience: No sex or nudity, but there is a scene where a woman is being given as a gift to Rameses. Mentions of baby slaughter, to alligators no less. No visuals, really, but there is a mural of the scene. Various deaths, but nothing terribly graphic. Heavy overtones that might put off the youngins…..10+?

Animating Halloween: The Berenstain Bears – Trick or Treat

Plot: Brother and Sister go out trick or treating with their friends. They want to avoid the house of a woman that they think is an evil witch, but Mama tells them to go in order to be polite, stating she’s a very nice lady. When they arrive, will their fears be realized?

Breakdown: Ah the Berenstain Bears. One of few old cartoon series where I know the books better than the TV series.

Like many shows for little kids, this one obviously has a moral that is laid out from the very start of the episode. “We think this lady’s creepy!” “Don’t judge someone by how they look.” “She’s nice and Mama was right!” *roll credits*

It’s a good lesson to learn and they do sneak some slight spooky-ish scenes (at least for small children) in there to make for a nice little Halloween special. How and why this lady had a statue of a bear that looked identical to Lizzy, even down to the costume she was wearing, is beyond me, but it’s a respectable effort to lend credence to the story that she supposedly turns bears into stone.

This is also one of those episodes where bullies get pranked ten ways to Sunday, which seems to be an odd theme in Halloween specials.

I love Whitter Jones. She’s how I want to be when I get older. Hell, how I try to be now. She loves Halloween and decks out her whole house in all sorts of cool Halloween decorations and tricks. Though, I have to wonder how Mama Bear is such good friends with her that she actually has a framed picture of the two of them on the wall yet Brother and Sister don’t seem to know enough about her to know she’s not an evil witch.

If you’re a Berenstain Bears fan, this is a pretty good entry in the series, and it’s also a good episode to show the youngin’s around Halloween.

Recommended Audience:……..You’re kidding, right?

Animating Halloween: Donald Duck, Huey, Dewey and Louie – Trick or Treat

Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Donald plays a mean trick on his nephews as they trick or treat at his house. Feeling sympathetic towards the poor ducks, a witch befriends them and helps them get revenge.

Breakdown: OCTOBER! HALLOWEEN! THINGS! WE GO NOW!

….Ahem. We start off this year’s AH with a Donald Duck short. On Halloween, Donald’s being the little jerk he is and decides to play a prank on his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, as they arrive at his house to trick or treat. This would be mostly fine since it’s TRICK or treat, but when the ‘prank’ involves blowing up their sacks of candy with explosives….yeah, to quote the wrong franchise, it’s duck season!

Sweet vengeance does take place, and it’s pretty darn funny. It’s also a bit scary when you think about it. Having only your feet be possessed sounds like something that would happen in Army of Darkness.

Also, why does Donald even have a bowl of candy prepared if he’s just pranking everyone who comes to his door?

Overall, this is a pretty great Disney short to play on Halloween, and for this looking for some Halloween music, you have a massive ear worm here.

Trick or treat. Trick or treat. Trick or treat for Halloween. Better give a treat that’s good to eat, if you want life to stay serene.

Recommended Audience: Well, Donald nearly blows his nephews’ hands off with explosives. Other than that, nothing.

Golan the Insatiable Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: In season one, Godlord Golan is sent to earth from his home dimension of Gkrool after a rebellion uprising hurls him through a portal. He lands in the Beekler home where he lives with his acolyte, a goth girl named Dylan, as they wreak havoc across Oak Grove, Minnesota.

In season two, Golan is summoned to earth by Dylan after she finds an ancient demonic tome in the basement of her mother’s workplace. Golan returns to his home dimension shortly after only to find it has been taken over by his acolyte, Kruung, who sends the demons of the dimension after Golan. He returns to earth after fleeing the demons and wishes to take over our world instead in hopes of one day creating an army that can combat Kruung back in his own dimension.

Breakdown: I really didn’t expect to ever like this series based on the premise, but I actually got into it quite a bit. I like dark comedies when they’re not being overly gross or seeming like they’re gunning for pure shock humor, like Mr. Pickles, a show that can die in a the hottest of hell’s fire. Granted, there is a lot of maiming, murder and rape implications, but it’s not usually so in your face about it that it put me off very much.

Dylan really came out being the best character to me through both seasons as they mostly kept her character consistent in how ridiculously ‘evil’ yet still somewhat realistic she really is. I love watching her do pretty much anything as you can guarantee that the contrast between her and her environment will be pretty stark. Plus her dialogue is usually pretty funny in that she’s constantly trying to overly exaggerate her words like she’s a villain. Think Zim from Invader Zim only as a small goth girl and much more violent. She has an unhealthy obsession with demonic forces, gross things and overt violence, and quite a few times she gets in on the maiming and murder.

Golan can also be a lot of fun and pretty funny, but season two kinda butchered him a bit for me. More on that later.

Long story short, I really liked season one a lot more than season two, and not in the usual way that works.

As you can probably tell from the plot synopsis, the second season isn’t really a continuation. It’s a complete reboot. The first season consisted of six ten minute long episodes and when the second season was picked up by FOX, they extended the episodes to 22 minutes and gave the entire series a reboot. From what I’ve heard, the creators deem the second season as the more legit first season while the ‘first season’ is really a series of shorts. Which is a shame because I really believe this series worked best in the first format.

In season one, Golan acts much more like you’d expect a ‘fish out of water’ demonic godlord to act. He makes overly dramatic statements, threatens a lot of people and does a lot of horrible things without thinking any of it is a big deal. Despite the fact that human stuff like watching TV, hanging out with the cool kids and fitting in does appeal to Golan, his first and foremost duty is being the demonic godlord that he is, wreaking havoc and trying to take over the world.

In season two, Golan basically got neutered. Golan is now more ‘human’ though more ‘partier’ human than he has any right to be. Dylan pretty much has to drag him on evil adventures all the time instead of him being proactive in his demonic duties, which is lame. If he is being proactive in that duty, it’s usually for some human related selfish end.

He’s also gotten a voice change, which does not work for him. Before, he had a very ‘monster’ like voice that was gruff and gurgly, performed by series’ creator Josh Miller. In the second season, he pretty much just has a slightly gruff human voice done by Rob Riggle. When old Golan would get ‘demonic’ he didn’t need to have any audio alterations done to his voice to make him seem any more menacing because his voice was just fine for it. Now they have to give him the stereotypical ‘devil’ filter.

Dylan is mostly the same, but now she is also a bit more human and has a seeming excuse written in for her odd and hateful behavior. Her dad’s either dead or not around. In the first season, Dylan had a dad, Richard, a really conservative somewhat doormat of a dad who served as more or less foil for Golan. In season two, he doesn’t exist. It’s never explained what happened to Dylan’s dad or even if Richard is the dad in this series, but they imply that he either died (of Robot AIDs) or left the family.

Dylan is still the best character in both versions, working off Golan and utilizing her personality pretty well, but the fact that they changed her story in season two kinda makes it less fun. I mean, her becoming a hateful death and demon obsessed sociopathic goth is just a bit sad when it’s partially because she feels lonely and lacks a father figure, which only gets worse in the season two finale. In season one, it’s funnier because you just think she’s a bit of a psycho kid with a legit passion for this stuff.

Carole, Dylan’s mom, stays roughly the same, but she’s crazier and more sexually frustrated somehow despite being a single mother who has no problem offering up her sexuality to people.

Dylan’s older sister, Alexis, is kept the same through versions, but the new animation style basically makes her look crazy. She can’t say a sentence without flipping her head or making big gestures. This might be a play on how overly dramatic some teens are, but it just seems more annoying than anything and this style is eventually applied to basically anyone, especially Carole.

Speaking of the new animation style, while you could argue that there is more detail and fluid animation in season two, I preferred season one’s. It was a bit on the rough jutting side, but it was fine. In the second season, everything’s a bit too animated. People don’t move their bodies that much when they’re just talking. It’s distracting and, like I previously mentioned, sometimes annoying.

Despite the fact that the characters are made slightly more human in the second season, the dark humor also gets amped up a bit. Like MacKenzie B and her friends are all viciously murdered in episode one and a baby is killed by either car crash or being burned alive in episode two. Yeah, Golan killed some people in season one, but for the most part he just maimed lots of people. Not that it really matters anyway since MacKenzie B is miraculously alive and well in episode two.

The finale with Keith’s background is even more confusing. They explain in a flashback that Dylan used to be a perfectly normal sweet pink dress and bow wearing little girl who used to be best buddies with Keith, Alexis’ boyfriend, after her dad ‘went away’ as a way for her to have a male role model. However, Alexis became his girlfriend and he never did stuff with Dylan again, causing her to become the evil and violence-obsessed goth girl she is today. It also explains that the teardrops (season one)/slash marks (season two) on the bottom of her eyes are actually scars as a result of her tearing at her eyelids when Keith was taken away from her.

It was never implied at all that Keith used to be Dylan’s best buddy nor that Keith felt bad about abandoning Dylan back then nor that Dylan had any lasting trauma from it. In fact, he’s made fun of Dylan right to her face several times before this revelation, yet suddenly he’s like ‘Oh…hi Dylan’ after that flashback and she huffs in response. It was nice to give Keith some backstory, but that was one of the sloppiest ways to shoehorn in such a story thread, not that they do much with this anyway in the grand scheme of things.

 

Not to mention, there have been numerous times where Dylan’s given zero shits about possibly losing Golan, even in similar circumstances, but the concept of such a thing in this episode is inconceivable to her just because it’s matching almost exactly how she lost Keith.

A character named Swingly is introduced in the finale of the first season as a spastic and odd little boy that Dylan gets a crush on. In season two, he’s basically the same. He’s pretty entertaining in his own right in both versions, even if they recycle several jokes of his between versions, but in the end of his only part in season two, they make him gay and give him a boyfriend, subsequently crushing Dylan’s first crush. I’m perfectly fine with making him gay, but it just seemed like such a dick move, writing-wise, to Dylan. They could’ve done a lot more with that pairing, but they just decided to scrap it. It’s even worse considering there are so few people Dylan actually likes.

Another strike against season two is the fact that the citizens of the town are way crazier than they were before, and some of them even possess supernatural powers. The thing that made season one so funny was the stark contrast between how evil and crazy Dylan and Golan were in comparison to the rest of the normal citizens in the world. Yet they were also pretty much accepting what Golan and Dylan were doing as if it were somewhat normal or, for comparison sake, like it’s a rambunctious child with an imaginary friend, only magnified.

If you make everyone else just as crazy and weird, while also making it so nothing has consequences (like MacKenzie B coming back to life) and other people having supernatural powers (like the doctor being able to time travel; almost certain that’s not a Doctor Who reference) then it makes it much less funny. It’s just a town of crazy people with a demon and an ‘evil’ little girl as the main characters. Added to the fact that Golan is made more human in the second season just basically waters down season two entirely. It still has its moments, but they lost much of what made it funny to begin with.

This also makes Dylan’s issues seem kinda moot. Yes, she’s still quite a bit different from the other kids, but since so many people are so crazy and everyone sees them as normal, it makes her problem of feeling alone and misunderstood because she’s so different seem like less of an issue because, really, she’s not so different. Though considering, as of the finale, she has three major ‘tragic backstory’ reasons behind her behavior, I guess even this point is moot.

As a contrasting example, in season one, Dylan and Golan are trying to capture the tooth fairy. Dylan’s dad, the one who’s really been leaving money under her pillow, gets his arm caught in a bear trap that Golan left under the pillow to catch the tooth fairy. As he’s writhing in pain, he decides to keep up the charade of the tooth fairy by saying he was stealing the money she left behind instead of revealing that the tooth fairy isn’t real.

It’s important to note that the parents are the only ones who put value in Dylan’s belief in the tooth fairy, since they believe it’s normal for kids to believe in that stuff and revealing the truth too soon in their lives might be heartbreaking. Dylan doesn’t really care if she’s real one way or another, and the only reason they’re trying to capture her in the first place is because Golan wants to bone her. His ridiculous and misguided sacrifice is for the sake of their view of normalcy, and that’s what makes it funny. If this was some crazy character hollering and jumping around then falling down or exploding or something, this whole scene would be boring.

Another good example of this is the running gag in season one where Golan keeps hitting on and making sexual references to Alexis and Carole. It’s funny because Alexis hates Golan and it’s also somewhat offensive considering she’s right on the border of legal age. It’s funny with Carole because she’s married and is obviously sexually frustrated while being attracted to Golan, as evidenced by her spicy Golan fanfiction. However, she can’t bring herself to just do it with Golan because she is loyal to her husband.

In the fourth episode of season two? Both Alexis and Carole blurt out that they’ve had sex with Golan, and both times were never mentioned or ‘shown’ on screen. So yeah, they basically just burnt that joke to make a not-really-joke. The reason they said it was because she was comparing the pain of breaking her arm to the pain of having sex with Golan…..Not like it would’ve still been funny with Carole anyway since she seems to be a freer sexual being who is now single.

Season two’s run time is also a problem for me. The first season’s episodes were all between 10 and 11 minutes long, which I found perfect for this type of formula. This show doesn’t really call for intricate storylines and extended plot elements. 10 to 11 minutes is all it really needed to tell the specific story it wanted to tell while keeping up the pacing just fine. In the second season, the episodes are extended to 22 minutes, and I can’t say I was a fan of the change. It just seems like, for the stories it presented, except maybe the pilot, 22 minutes was too long. It felt like the stories dragged on for a bit and tried to fill up extra time with sideplots that usually didn’t work very well.

FOX has officially canceled the series after it spent about a year in hiatus hell, which is a shame because I have faith that this series could’ve been something pretty great if it had more of an opportunity to get its footing in the new format.

Is it perfect? No. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say it’s really entirely great, but it has quite a few memorable moments and lines and you can have a ton of fun with the characters, especially in the first season.

As a final note, here are my favorite and least favorite episodes of both seasons.

Season 1 Favorite: Dylan Crushes Reading – Swingly is just a very entertaining character and his weird mannerisms and personality are perfect alongside Dylan’s. Plus, the plotline with her being unable to read is handled in a very funny fashion.

Season 1 Least Favorite: A Pox on Your Pox – I just didn’t like how Golan was treating Dylan during this entire episode. I know that seems like a weird thing to say considering he’s a demonic godlord, but he was just being a dick for most of this episode. Plus, it was kinda light on jokes that really worked.

Season 2 Favorite: Shell Raiser – It involves a bacteria ridden turtle with a sawblade taped to its back getting a magically possessed arm by a stoner that peer pressures Golan into messing up his and Dylan’s latest plot of infecting a huge vat of chili with turtle bacteria by pushing him into smoking weed. I don’t feel I need to say anything else.

Season 2 Least Favorite: On Golan Pond – This was one episode in the entire series that I pretty much hated. Golan sheds his skin and becomes a little chibi version of himself for 24 hours, leaving Dylan to protect him in the middle of the woods while they’re on vacation. He eventually gets taken by a mama wolf who sees him as one of her own. He then proceeds to treat the runt of the litter, a pup he calls ‘Runty’, like garbage. Runty, starving partially because of Golan taking the last teat, licks up some of Golan’s blood and becomes a monster bent on killing Golan. He is then killed by Dylan and his heart is ripped out and eaten by her. So, yeah, the only two jokes in there are Golan being cute and cuddly and treating a dying wolf pup like crap before viciously killing him.

Oh and there’s a stupid subplot about Carole deciding to let loose with Keith’s partier parents and falling in love with a Party Bot. Reminded me somewhat of that Futurama episode where Bender doesn’t want to get an upgrade.

Recommended Audience: There are rape implications and some sexual content, but no real sex scenes, nudity and so forth. There is swearing slung around, but surprisingly not a whole lot considering the subject matter. People get killed and maimed quite a bit, and there are several instances of animal abuse. 16+

Rango Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A pet lizard finds himself lost in the desert after his tank flies off of the back of his owner’s car. He arrives at a town called Dirt where water is scarce to say the least. He plays himself up as a hero of the west to the local townsfolk, and after (accidentally) saving them from a hawk. Because of his feats, he’s given the title of Sheriff by the mayor. Taking the name of Rango, he enjoys his newfound respect and admiration but when the situation gets dire in Dirt, he’ll have to pay up or shut up.

Breakdown: I was never a fan of westerns, unless you count space westerns. And despite being interested in this movie when it was first released, mostly because Nickelodeon promoted it quite a bit (They produced it, but it’s hard as hell to find their name on it) I never got around to watching it until now. Too bad too because this is a pretty damn good movie.

Admittedly, the story is completely overdone. Some guy pretends to be something he’s not only to eventually get ousted and then gather up the courage to return and set things right. Been there done that. And yes, the awkwardness of the continuous lying does irk me quite a bit.

However, I really love the writing of the dialogue, the timing of the jokes, the characters and the style. I can’t really compare this to any other animated movie that I can think of. It’s pretty unique in its own right, at least barring the story.

One of the ways this movie stands out is its art and animation. Rango was produced by ILM (Lucasfilms) and it is absolutely gorgeous…..I think I drooled a little.

Excuse me, I really should say it’s butt ugly, but it’s meant to be gritty and kinda ugly. It’s a western with a bunch of desert animals like rats and lizards. Even the love interest, Beans, that’s her actual name, is pretty blech-looking. But my god, the details. They are fantastic. From the littlest drops of water and the hairs and scales on the animals to the town of Dirt and the vast desert. It is all just deliciously…..Ugligorgeous. What’s even more incredible is how they integrated the human world into their own world. The cars and lights look fantastic, we’ve got a huge cityscape, and even stuff like the items in Rango’s tank are beautifully detailed.

Then we see one human character briefly, The Man With No Name; IE A Clint Eastwood ‘Spirit of the West’ character who guides Rango back on his path. And not only is he also incredibly well-detailed, but his part is probably the least cliched because he doesn’t do that lame ‘just believe in yourself blah blah’ speech. He gives a realistic speech that a Clint Eastwood character would probably give. Sadly, however, they did not get Clint Eastwood to play this part, but he was well-performed by Timothy Olyphant.

They also didn’t dumb down most of the scenes for the sake of the children. Characters get shot, they die, they swear (to a degree), they describe several gory situations and the dialogue is perfectly suited for older audiences as well as young ones. Which is weird because somehow this movie managed to grab a PG rating.

In regards to characters, they’re all kinda stereotypes, but they’re done in a fairly unique and memorable manner. Johnny Depp (hey, you broke away from Disney and Tim Burton for five seconds! Congrats!) plays our titular character, Rango. Interestingly, his real name, the one he would’ve been given by his owner, is never mentioned, which kinda makes him a legit ‘man with no name’. He named himself through the traditional means of reading it off of something he saw.

He’s a bit of a delusional chameleon who longs to be a big popular hero, but he’s lived all of his life in a tank with no one to interact with except a wind-up goldfish and a barbie doll torso. It’s actually a little sad to think that his owner might be devastated over losing his pet, but Rango never mentions it or seems to care.

Rango’s one of the most uncomfortable characters to watch because he’s lying through most of the movie, and he plays up his lies as much as possible in order to fully create a heroic sheriff persona, but he really is a good guy who wants to help the people of Dirt.

Beans isn’t all that interesting. She’s a typical ‘no non-sense’ female lead whose only schtick is her defense mechanism. Beans is a desert iguana and she has a defense mechanism that essentially causes her to freeze up and be completely unaware of her surroundings. Problem is, this ability sometimes springs up without warning or trigger. She’ll just be talking and then boom. Then she just transforms into a doting girlfriend at the end, and it’s actually a little annoying.

Priscilla, the cactus mouse, steals several scenes with her odd habit of being incredibly and painfully blunt about situations and going on small tangents about frightening or gory situations.

Then there’s the mayor who is about as transparent as humanly possible. It’s obvious that he’s behind the water shortage in the town yet it takes Rango to finally figure it out and call him out on it. He’s not much of a villain, but there is someone who actually earns the villain title; Rattlesnake Jake.

As you can guess, Rattlesnake Jake is a rattlesnake. A huge rattlesnake….with piercing almost glowing orange, yellow and red eyes, huge fangs…..and that’s about it…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh there is his KICK-ASS MACHINE GUN TAIL. Oh my god, I never knew I needed a movie with a rattlesnake with a machine gun for a tail in my life, but that part of me has been fulfilled now. He is a big, badass, looming bastard of a snake. Though the reason I really like him isn’t just how badass he is, it’s that he actually has some sense of honor. By the end, he’s basically an anti-hero.

The fact that everything looks more or less real along with stuff like guns and animal threats such as hawks really makes the movie much more intense.

And might I commend the movie for having the best end credits sequence I’ve seen in ages? The art, the direction, the style, the music; they were all awesome for that segment.

Bottomline: Even if you don’t like westerns, I’d say definitely give this movie a shot. It’s cleverly written, has a great realistic feel to it, is gorgeously detailed, has some fantastic music, intense action sequences and while it’s not the most unique story in the world, you never once feel bored while watching it. I had a lot of fun with this movie, and I’d gladly watch it several more times.

Recommended Audience: Mild swearing (hell, damn, maybe an ‘ass’ I can’t remember), guns, smoking, some people get shot but I don’t think anyone dies from a gunshot wound, a bird dies from being crushed, an armadillo ‘dies’ from being run over by a car (and ew they closeup on his squished body, even though, oddly, there’s no guts or gore, it’s like someone flatted a balloon filled with flour) ‘scary situations’ maybe. 10+

Pixar’s Lamp: Toy Story

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Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: In a world where toys are alive, yet pretend to be inanimate around humans, a boy named Andy’s favorite toy, a cowboy named Woody, feels threatened by the presence of a new toy, a space ranger toy called Buzz Lightyear. Andy slowly starts playing with Buzz more than Woody, and in his jealousy Woody accidentally causes Buzz to fall out the window. When Woody ends up getting lost as well, he and Buzz have to work together to make it back home and back to Andy.

Breakdown: It’s Pixar’s turn with their first baby; Toy Story and I LOVE TOY STORYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!

*cough* Sorry.

It’s one of my favorite movies ever. I’ve become fairly good at removing my nostalgia goggles when it comes to things that I used to love when I was a kid, but Toy Story holds up extremely well as still being entertaining, fun, funny, heartwarming and exciting. Best of all, it’s a movie that parents and kids can enjoy together; not a movie that you turn on just to humor your kids.

The characters are all unique and lovable. They all implement various parts of their designs into their own specific brands of humor. Even the minor toys get their own little times to shine and be memorable. Woody and Buzz in particular have great chemistry both as enemies and friends. They bounce off of each other with plenty of entertaining banter and they are really a joy to watch.

The story is fairly unique and never becomes boring or cliché (Also I never knew Joss Whedon worked on this.) Jealousy’s not really a new thing, but they implement it in a way that doesn’t come off as tired.

Love or hate Randy Newman, I love his songs here. He was perfect to do the music for this movie.

Art and animation wise, the designs are unique and memorable. The animation is believable and really brings the toys to life in more ways than one. I will say that the animation, usually involving the human characters and Scud (whose eyes are just weird), is sometimes not quite as polished as what we’ve come to enjoy from Pixar movies today, but this is hardly noticeable and nothing major. Besides, they were just starting out here anyway.

……Oh wait, no. I can never forgive the nightmare fuel that is Molly. *shudder*

It even does product placement right. It puts a bunch of existing toy brands with allusions to real brands with toys made specifically for the movie and manages to market all of them. I still, to this day, wish I had gotten that creepy baby doll robot spider from Sid’s room. That kid may have been a serial killer in the making, but that toy was cool. (Seriously, his parents just let him buy rockets, play with matches, blow up his toys and get an ‘I ❤ explosives’ bumper sticker on the wall and don’t suspect a thing?) I did have a big Buzz Lightyear toy that I actually still have in my closet somewhere with his rocket (non-cardboard version).

This movie stands up really well and never ceases to be entertaining and heartwarming to me. It is a very fitting opening to Pixar’s prestigious career.

Recommended Audience: There’s toy violence when it comes to Sid as he really likes torturing and blowing up his toys through various means. The final scene with Sid would also be insanely frightening if shown without context in any other movie. But eh, come on. 5+

Dreaming of Dreamworks: Antz Review

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Rating: 7/10

Plot: Z is a worker ant who feels like a nobody. Part of a huge colony where hardly anyone has a real identity or personality, Z wants to break away from all of them and be his own ant. The colony’s princess, Bala, also wants to break away from her boring duties as princess to have some ‘fun’ with the workers and meets Z at a bar. They hit it off, but are torn apart by the horrific norms of society. However, when a general, Bala’s fiancee, has a terrible secret plan to wipe out all of the workers and create his own colony with soldiers, it’s up to Z, Bala and his friends to save the colony.

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Breakdown: Going through all of Dreamworks’ productions this time, and Antz is first on the list. A lot of people are quick to dismiss Antz because so many people saw it as a blatant rip off of one of Pixar’s first babies, A Bug’s Life. I can see that, given the fact that both take place in ant colonies and both have a ‘different’ and ‘weird’ main character who falls in love with their colony’s princess. I can also easily see this since even the studios were arguing over who was really copying who. In addition, their productions were going at at the same time. Antz actually debuted a couple of months before A Bug’s Life, so I kinda wonder why Antz is labeled as the rip off if it came technically before A Bug’s Life.

Pixar did make more money off of their movie than Dreamworks did, but Pixar also had about 20 mil more in their budget to work with than Dreamworks. They seem to be pretty square in their releases and productions yet A Bug’s Life is always seen as the triumphant one. Let’s differentiate these two.

At face value, this plot is actually quite a bit different from A Bug’s Life in that there’s no dictator-esque group of people squeezing the colony of every bit of their food….but there is a nazi-esque general who believes that the worker ants are useless and wants to kill them all in order to make a new colony with the princess and the soldiers.

There’s no circus group that helps out, but the main character does lie to a bunch of people in order to feel good about himself and gain support.

The main character’s not an awkward outcast inventor….but he is Woody Allen….take that as you will.

There’s plenty that is different with this movie. Some different good (No annoying child ants!) and some different bad (Z is not very likable, in my opinion. Also the artwork is weird to me sometimes.)

I guess that is my main problem with this movie. I never grew to like Z. Maybe because I never liked Woody Allen, but he is just so damned annoying, and he really is just Woody Allen as an ant. Z doesn’t like the fact that he seems to be insignificant and this is only reinforced when people….reinforce it.

There is a hive-mind way of thinking in the colony, as expected. There’s no individualism, no free thinking, no real choices; just doing what you’re told to do and doing it for the sake of your colony. A Bug’s Life worked in a similar manner, but they were far brighter and upbeat about the situation like everyone was in their roles because they wanted to be not because they didn’t know any better.

Z’s so different because he actually thinks for himself. Ooh what a rebel. This wouldn’t be that bad if he wasn’t so…..vocal about his character being mindless robots….He’s a goth kid without the black is what I mean. Always prattling on about how everyone just does what their told and never thinks for themselves and–

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Yeah that.

Not that he doesn’t have a point; they don’t do anything but what they’re told. But it’s just thrown in your face so blatantly. And of course Z setting one example causes a huge shift in everyone’s mindsets and causes everyone to revolt against their work. Thing is, the scene where they showcase this makes it seem like individualism=laziness. They were told to do nothing but work, but their work had a point – to help the colony. Yet the instant they’re like ‘hey we can think for ourselves’ no one wants to work or help at all anymore.

The colony really is a bunch of, forgive this term,…sheep. They change their attitudes so quickly back and forth that you nearly get whiplash at how quickly they turned on their almighty hero Z in order to follow the antagonist.

The art and animation were also…..blech-ish. I didn’t mind the character models all that much. The ant designs were also much different than what we see in A Bug’s Life. In fact, that’s a bit of a gripe I have with that movie. I know black and red aren’t really appealing colors to work with, but blue ants? Bright blue ants? Really?

Anyway, the ants here have a much less cartoony design than Pixar’s, and they’re colored in a more realistic brown color. It works okay, but that art, especially where Weaver was involved, looked claymation-ish. Or almost unfinished. I get that Dreamworks was just starting out with this but still, not grade A work. The animation is good, though. A little on the stiff side. There never seemed to be any moments where it seemed funny or unnatural….Well, okay, the human scene was weird. You never see his/her torso and the walking just seems so slow.

In the end, it was a pretty enjoyable movie that kept my attention, but I don’t think I’d ever have a reason to watch it again. Despite having enough to stand on its own merit and not be compared to A Bug’s Life….A Bug’s Life is just a more enjoyable movie to me.

Recommended Audience: Another fairly significant difference between this movie and A Bug’s Life is that this has more adult humor in it. A good chunk of the jokes are really jokes for older audiences and there are several instances of swearing and some allusions to sex. Nothing major, obviously, though. 7+

Aardman’s Clay: Chicken Run

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Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Ginger is one of many chickens in Mrs. Tweedy’s chicken farm, and she’s also the one leading a mass effort to break out of the place. With their lives amounting to nothing but laying eggs and suffering from a swift blow by an ax when the eggs stop being produced, they are desperate to escape by any means necessary. However, every escape effort made by Ginger and the chickens has been met with failure.

When hope seems to be at its dimmest, their salvation falls from the sky. Literally. A rooster named Rocky flies into the farm and subsequently crashes. With a poster revealing Rocky as an amazing flying rooster, Ginger recruits him to teach them all how to fly and escape in exchange for hiding him from the circus that he belongs to. Rocky agrees, but seems to be hiding something. And with Mrs. Tweedy’s new chicken pot pie making machine arriving on their doorstep, they have no time for secrets or failures.

Breakdown: Once upon a time, Dreamworks had a sexy love affair with Aardman animations, also known as ‘oh yeah that claymation studio’. Like all good relationships, this one started out steamy and ended in a toilet…..but more on that another day. The main point of this is Chicken Run.

Chicken Run was Aardman’s first ever feature length film after many years of doing short films. Aardman is indeed ‘that claymation studio’ as they pretty much have the market cornered in keeping that style alive. You may know them from Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and even Arthur Christmas.

Aardman clearly seems to have more creative control on this project that Dreamworks did. Other than the logo in the beginning, I can’t really feel anything Dreamworks-y here. That will change down the line, but again we’ll talk about that later on.

Chicken Run, at its base, is kinda predictable but mostly in regards to what I feel is the weakest part of the film, Rocky.

It is painfully obvious from the getgo that Rocky is hiding something, and even more obvious that he’s hiding the fact that he can’t actually fly. Much of the running time is somewhat awkward as you subconsciously tick down that clock in your head that will eventually reach ‘when the shit hits the fan’. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I hate when shows and movies do this. I don’t want to feel awkward while watching a movie. I don’t want to sit there twiddling my thumbs waiting for the big devastating ‘secret’ to come out in the open. It’s not entertaining to me.

Luckily, the way they handled it with Rocky wasn’t too bad….but then you have Rocky himself. Rocky is a very…if you’ll forgive the pun, cocky guy. And he’s the lone handsome American in a group of English girls (and one old rooster…and one Scottish hen) so of course the girls all fawn over him except for Ginger who is way more concerned with getting out of there, which leads the two to bicker and have weird sexual chicken tension. They even do the bit where he calls her by cute and semi-psuedo-ish sexist nicknames like dollface while she constantly corrects him that her name is Ginger.

All that said, I watched this movie when it first came out and I remember not being all that impressed with it. However, on the rewatch, I got plenty of laughs and entertainment out of it. Barring the cliché plotline with the deceit and cliché character relationship between the two leads, it’s still a very solid movie.

While Rocky does seem like he’s going to be the one to end up saving the day in the end, and they even have an almost eye-rolling scene involving Rocky saving Ginger while they both yell each other’s name in slow motion, it’s still Ginger’s idea that comes out on top and Ginger as the final hero. Ginger is very likable in that she seems to be the only one around with real sense and determination. She is a true leader to her friends, and while she honestly could get away from the farm on her own, she refuses to do so even under threat of death because she won’t abandon her friends.

The setting of the chicken farm is pretty unique, even if it is masking for a prison break movie. Most of the characters, large and small, are pretty memorable and funny. Babs in particular is funny purely because, no matter what they’re doing, she won’t put down her damn knitting needles. Also, there are egg-obsessed rats who are contracted out to get supplies for the girls and oddly enough they seem to be based on Statler and Waldorf as they make snarky commentary over everything the chickens do to escape.

Mrs. and Mr. Tweedy are a bit too super-villainy for my taste, but they also get some great scenes and have a good dynamic. Mrs. Tweedy is a greedy evil bitch who is so emotionally detached from….everything, she even calls her husband ‘Mr. Tweedy.’ Speaking of Mr. Tweedy, he is the only one who realizes that the chickens are smart and organized, yet his wife continues to simply call him crazy. He’s the bumbling oaf, she’s the evil mastermind.

I also don’t really understand their plan. They don’t seem to be making enough money selling eggs, so they buy a really overly-complicated chicken pot pie making machine to turn their chickens into pies and get rich off of selling the pies. Okay….well, what happens when you run out chickens? You’d have to buy more chickens. And you have to have a constant supply of vegetables, pie crusts and gravy not to mention how much money it probably costs to run the machine. I’d bet by the time they processed their last chicken they probably would only barely cover the initial costs of the machine.

Then, spoiler alert for the ending, she sees that the chickens are indeed intelligent, organized and have built a giant mechanical bird to fly out of the farm (this is the second movie I’ve seen involving a bunch of oppressed animals building an operational mechanical bird…) yet she’s still obsessed with killing them instead of….I dunno, selling them to the circus that came by earlier. Or putting on her own show. I’d think an intelligent chicken who can build complicated aeronautics is more of a ticket seller than a chicken who is shot out of a cannon. End of spoilers.

I will admit that I’m not a fan of claymation/stop-motion. I respect the living hell out of claymation animators because it is just so painstaking, slow and frustrating to work in this style, but it just doesn’t typically work for me, outside of movies and shorts that are intentionally driven for creepiness and horror. Something about it is…., well, creepy to me. That said, this is a very well-made film. Aardman does some fantastic art and animation work that really draw you into their world with some incredible details. I think the teeth and constant open mouths on the chickens was a bit off-putting, but nothing that bad.

In regards to voice acting, everyone did a great job. They did a wonderful job making these characters real for me…..though, again, Rocky is kinda the exception. Rocky is voiced by Mel Gibson, and I can’t separate the two. Mel Gibson does not have range. He just doesn’t. And every voice acting role he takes is just Mel Gibson talking through whatever animated mouthpiece he’s given. He acts perfectly fine, but I just can’t not hear Mel Gibson.

Bottomline: Chicken Run is a great movie with some fantastic characters, wonderful comedic timing and slapstick, and a fun little prison break adventure. It’s not full-on comedy as some moments get pretty damn real, but it is still a movie that achieved in making me actually laugh out loud several times. The two tones work well together, and I found it to be a fantastic ride.

Recommended Audience: While there’s nothing graphic, there is a lot of talk of slaughtering chickens, and one chicken sees the business end of an ax during the movie. They obviously don’t show the scene full out, but you see the silhouette of the ax being raised and then the sound of it hitting the chopping block. There’s also a slight gore fake out at the end. Other than the downright depressing mood that this movie can bring about, there’s nothing else of note. 7+

Dissecting the Disquels: Brother Bear 2

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Rating: 4/10

Plot: Kenai and Koda are back, and Kenai has reunited with his old friend Nita who wants a favor. She’s trying to get married, but apparently she’s already been promised to Kenai after giving her an amulet when they were children. The great spirits support monogamy so they force Kenai and Nita to go to the place where the amulet was given to burn the amulet and break the bond between the two. However, even the simplest tasks can be complicated when love enters the picture.

Breakdown: I loved the movie Brother Bear. It’s not as dear to my heart as some other Disney movies, but I still loved it. It had wonderful visuals, a good story, mostly good characters and great music. One of the best things about Brother Bear is that it’s one of the few Disney movies to almost completely omit the subject of romance.

The main characters never fall in love, they have no romantic interests and there’s no big get together or wedding at the end. The most romance that they had in that movie was some sappy couple of bears at the salmon run that were meant to be comedy focuses, and a passing flirtation with Denahi and a couple of girls. That’s it. There was no room in Brother Bear for romance because the story was set purely on the brothers; Kenai, Denahi and Sitka and Kenai and Koda. The reason I loved that was because I am really just so sick of stories feeling like they need to shoehorn in romance into any and all storylines even if there’s no room or no point.

In this sequel, they rectify that by having the entire movie, subplots and all, be about love and marriage. Oh and brotherhood is squeezed in there somewhere. Every character that reappears in this movie gets a love interest beyond Koda, and love is shoved so far down your throat that it’s painful.

Well, let’s ruin another Disney movie for me. Welcome to Brother Bear 2.

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We start with Kenai and Koda chasing each other as the opening music plays. The music’s somewhat reminiscent of the original movie’s, but noticeably different. The opening song, Welcome to this Day, pales in comparison to Great Spirits. Right from the start you can tell we’re in for a romance themed movie with swans making a heart shape with their necks to happy little goat parents watching their children.

Why hasn’t Koda grown….at all? In the least? It’s an entirely new year, yet he’s not even slightly bigger.

While one has not changed at all, the other has changed quite a bit as Kenai has had a voice change in this movie. I understand when they can’t get back original voice actors for sequels, especially direct to DVD ones, but Patrick Dempsey sounds nothing like Joaquin Phoenix.

They’re on their way to some ridge for the spring equinox to get all sorts of different berries to eat.

We have a short run-in with Tug, the big bear from the last movie voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan, who is really only there to plant the idea of romance into Kenai’s head by talking about his girlfriend. Kenai says they don’t need anyone else, but is clearly speaking with a bittersweet taste in his mouth.

We cut to a dream sequence that Kenai is having about a childhood experience. He and Nita were playing around in the snow using spears as pole vaults until Nita stuck the spear in too close to the edge of a floating piece of ice and fell into the water. She’s saved by Kenai, who brought her up to the top of the nearby waterfall to warm up….What an awful place to warm up. The water rushing in front of the cave has to make it even more freezing in there than it is outside. As Nita tried to keep warm, Kenai gave her an amulet that he had been wearing and they drew their stick figure drawings of each other on the cave wall. Nita’s father appeared on a boat below and she left never to see Kenai again I guess.

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….Well, there’s your big story behind this character and the amulet. Real impressive, huh? Also, simply giving a girl, especially when you’re children, a wooden amulet is an instant promise of eternal bond? Meanwhile, we cut to another Inuit village where a woman named Nita is getting ready for her wedding.

The first scene with Nita is very reminiscent of the scene in Mulan that starts the “Bring Honor to us All” song. She has two women who are never given names or explanations as to who they are to her clamoring over her every detail for the wedding. She tricks them into leaving as she puts on her wedding dress, which is the last thing that she has left of her mom. Oh yeah here’s something Disney doesn’t do very often, Nita’s mother is DEAD! Whawhawhaaaaa?

Her father comes in to talk to her before he gives her away saying how her mother would be proud and whatnot and they walk down the aisle.

It’s here where we see our first and practically only glimpse of Nita’s fiancee, Atka. He stands at the altar and gets no lines. There’s your characterization, people.

However, the great spirits will have none of that and send their mighty wrath upon the wedding by shooting down a lightning bolt which cracks the ground between the bride and groom. The villagers see this as a sign from the great spirits and we cut to Nita meeting with a shaman about what to do about it.

She’s played by Wanda Sykes, because God forbid we just have serious characters. She invokes the powers of the great spirits who tell her that Nita has already been promised to another in the form of an amulet. In order to break the bond between the two, the couple must go to where the promise originated and burn the amulet. Nita tells the shaman that Kenai’s a bear now. How she knows that is unknown. Maybe village to village gossip? So even if she found him she wouldn’t be able to talk to him.

Also, remember how the spirits were the ones who changed Kenai into a bear? Remember how none of the characters had magical powers? Well, now we have a shaman who has the power to talk to the spirits whenever she wants and give people the ability to talk to animals. Hell, even the village elder from the first movie couldn’t understand what Kenai was saying when he got turned into a bear or do magic stuff. But screw that, we need to speed this movie up so ✮ MAGIC✮ ✸!!

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She sets off on a journey to find Kenai an– are you kidding me? Not even a minute after she learns that she has to find Kenai….a bear….in the vast wilderness…..she finds, you guessed it, Kenai! In a scene that is reminiscent of when Nala finds Simba from TLK…She’s seen as a hunter by the boys and Kenai tries to protect Koda by attacking her, but finds that it’s Nita and puts her down.

Nita and Kenai reunite for a bit before she explains that she needs his help to burn the amulet that he gave her so that she can get married.

Kenai obviously feels a bit hurt that Nita wants to burn the amulet that he gave her when they were kids and refuses to go with her. She says that neither of them can go on with their lives if they don’t do this, but he still refuses.

….Wait, why can’t he go on with his life? He’s been doing just fine so far. It’s not like bears get married. But she, for some reason, brings up that the great spirits might turn Kenai back into a human again for some reason to help her burn the amulet…..What? How?…What? He’s not a bear under punishment anymore. He became a bear of his own volition. Even if they did offer that, why would he care? Unless…..wait, are they using his relationship to Koda as leverage? Are they technically keeping Koda hostage away from Kenai unless he agrees to help? Wow, that’s kinda awful, spirits and Nita.

Koda, hearing this, worries that they won’t be brothers anymore if they do turn him back. So, in order to sate Koda’s worries, he agrees to go to the waterfall to burn the amulet. Flimsy plotpoints are on buffet right now.

The boys and Nita run into the moose Rutt and Tuke, the comic relief from the previous movie, as they’re also on a mission of love. They’ve been trying to find mates, but the girl moose that they’ve found won’t give them the time of day. Kenai agrees to help them by pretending to attack while Rutt and Tuke pretend to save the girls and win their hearts.

It ends up in an awkward to watch scene where both Kenai and Rutt and Tuke fail miserably at their roles. Kenai does an embarrassing job trying to attack, which is odd because he’s shown that he can seem threatening, and Rutt and Tuke actually end up getting so scared by Kenai’s lame acting that they fall into the river and float away. I get that the scene was meant to be lame, but that was painful.

Kenai ends up getting kicked into a hollow log by the girl moose before they leave as well. In an attempt to get Kenai unstuck from the log, we realize that Nita has a fear of water ever since she nearly drowned as a child. She loses her bag containing the amulet in the river and is too scared to simply lean over and grab it from the water. She basically has a fit as the bag starts to float away and breaks the log that Kenai was stuck in as she yells at him to retrieve it for her. It goes over a waterfall, but quickly ends up on shore, somehow. As she breathes a sigh of relief, a comic relief raccoon comes over, sifts through her bag and steals the amulet. Why? Because padding.

I’m just now realizing that Kenai doesn’t have his totem around his neck. It was given back to him at the end of the first movie. What happened to it?

Anyway, Kenai, feeling guilty for apparently being responsible for her losing the necklace, goes off in the middle of the night to find the raccoon. He spends all night tracking it down and then Nita barges in and climbs the tree when Kenai was waiting for the raccoon to fall asleep to take it without bothering them. That’s the way to repay someone for doing a favor to you and working their ass off all night; by doing your best to ruin their hard work and not thanking them at all.

She makes too much noise and alerts the raccoon. He doesn’t notice Nita, but sees the boys. They ask for the necklace back as Nita tries to retrieve it herself. He then calls on his raccoon brethren of about 100 friggin’ raccoons as backup. What exactly happened to everything being afraid of this BEAR? The raccoons pelt him with pinecones until Kenai offers a trade. He has nothing to trade, but Nita has the amulet so who cares?

However, there’s a baby raccoon clinging to the necklace. She shoos him off, but then he cries for his mommy, which alerts the raccoons to Nita’s presence and they start chasing her. I should also mention that this scene is very reminiscent of the scene in Tarzan where Jane makes a baby monkey cry because she shoos it off of something she wants and then is chased by hundreds of monkeys. What is going on in this movie? There are so many scenes seemingly taken from other Disney movies, yet the movie itself is boring as hell.

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Kenai tells her to climb to the top of the tree while all of the raccoons follow her. He advises her to let go because he’ll catch her and they send the raccoons flying while sending themselves flying into a snowbank. Then they speak a mile a minute about what just happened while ending on how amazing the other is in a scene that is very reminiscent of a scene in a fellow Disney sequel, Lady and the Tramp 2: Scamp’s Adventure. Really, what is going on?

We’re at the halfway point in the movie and I’m still failing to get into it. Nita’s really annoying. She’s pushy, whiny, selfish and just an overall chore to watch. Koda’s annoyed me since the first movie and he’s no better here. Kenai’s okay, but his different voice and constant slapstick gags get old fast. The subplot with Rutt and Tuke is just embarrassing to watch. I didn’t mind them much in the first movie, but they’re pretty awful here. They’re there to push the message of love and extend the running time. That’s about it.

As for the plot, it’s very thin. It’s obvious as hell that Nita’s not going to end up marrying Atka especially since he’s not even a character so much as a picture with a name. He has no personality and no dialogue thus far. She’s gonna fall for Kenai and, if that shaman was any indication, she’ll likely get turned into a girl bear and they’ll live happily ever after.

Anyhoo, we meet back up with Rutt and Tuke who are still trying to court the girl moose. They’re rubbing themselves with dead leaves mud and, thanks to a prank from Tuke, poop, in order to attract them with scent.

Poop jokes? Really? That’s what we’re reduced to? Thanks, Disney.

Kenai tells them that he has another idea, but Nita explains that his last plan sucked. Kenai then decides to brush off the whole situation and go to the falls, but Nita decides that she wants to stay which is completely against the way that she has been acting this entire time. She’s been hell-bent on burning that amulet at the falls since she arrived, not willing to put up with any nonsense that interrupts them. Now she wants to delay her trip?

Nita sends Koda out to the girls to act all cute and cuddly even though bears, ya know, eat moose. They’re all in love with the little guy and Koda says that he’s playing hide and seek with his two best friends. Rutt and Tuke then come out asking if they’ve seen their bear friend. Koda comes out and they act all cute with him, tickling him and laughing and whatnot. The girls are all impressed with how good they are with the kid. They finally look like they’re going to get a date, but Rutt, for reasons beyond my understanding, suddenly blurts out poetry which makes him look like an idiot. Tuke knocks him down and walks way with both girls stating that his brother was hit on the head as a child and Rutt runs to follow. Bros before hoes doesn’t apply to moose apparently.

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Here’s my entry in the ‘most photogenic moose’ contest.

Nita and Kenai basically flirt about how she was able to hook them up but he wasn’t and they ignore Koda’s pleas for attention at impressing them with how good he acted during the plan.

Kenai explains that the falls are close as they only have to go a short ways and cross the river to get there by lunchtime the next day. Obviously the whole water-phobia thing comes into play so Nita suggests that instead of going through the river that they climb a bunch of mountains and crap to avoid it. Kenai and Koda practically laugh at the stupid route she has suggested and they vote to go their way, but she refuses like a stubborn child. Koda flips a fish out of the river for lunch which lands in Nita’s hands and makes her fall into the river. She flips out and immediately makes her way to shore.

Koda believes that she’s afraid of fish so Kenai and Koda quickly start laughing at her for it. Koda even takes the fish that he caught and does a puppet show about how scared she is of fish.

Wow, how completely insensitive and assholeish of you guys. First of all, she’s freaked out at the concept of water three times by now. That’s not a big enough hint that she’s afraid of water?

Second, even if she was afraid of fish, that’s no reason to act like an ass.

Third, this water-phobia thing is getting old, and it doesn’t even make complete sense. I can understand if she didn’t display outright signs of trauma after she was rescued as a child, but she left that scene ON A BOAT! If she’s so traumatized by water to the point where she won’t even lean over and grab a really important bag out of a slow as hell moving river, how the hell did she easily get into a boat and paddle away? She’s so scared of water I really have to wonder how she handles bathing or gentle rainshowers.

Kenai realizes that they’re upsetting her, so he yells at Koda to stop it. He doesn’t explain why, especially since he was laughing with him a minute ago; he just sighs in disappointment and goes to comfort Nita. He apologizes, and she explains her phobia of water and how she can’t go through the river because of it. Kenai says that they got through this much together so they’ll get through that together as well.

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Thus begins the ‘Koda Neglect montage’. Basically we have a montage of Nita and Kenai flirting and having fun together as they travel, while Koda is either treated like crap or completely ignored the entire way. Kenai stops Koda from walking on a log bridge to let Nita go first, he and Nita completely block Koda’s view of a mama bird feeding her baby birds, they nearly KILL HIM by not noticing or caring when he nearly falls off of a mammoth that they’re riding, barely able to hold onto the tail, and every other scene Koda shows him being completely ignored.

The song accompanying this montage is also okay, but it’s not very memorable.

The montage ends upon reaching the riverside. Kenai gives her a ride on his back to cross the river, and after going under the water and seeing turtles, she’s completely over her fear of water to the point where she actually gets off Kenai and swims to shore on her own.

What utter and complete bull. Yes, facing your fears helps you get over them, but a quick dip in the river and seeing some turtles shouldn’t be enough to completely cure you of a crippling phobia that you’ve had since you were a child that was caused by a traumatic near-death experience. It’s also a completely anticlimactic and stupid end to that insipid plotpoint.

Kenai and Nita walk away on the other side of the river, and Koda watches them with sadness as he continues to get ignored. They’ve been ignoring him in his entirety all day. I’d be surprised if they even realize he’s still traveling with them. What a good big brother Kenai turned out to be.

As Koda broods, we get another appearance by Rutt who has also been ditched by his brother for those floozies from before. He tells Koda to watch out because his brother might do the same thing to him. Rutt and Tuke; good for stupid comic relief and giving awful messages to children.

Koda doesn’t believe that Kenai would ever ditch him, but obviously has doubts.

Koda crosses the river and eavesdrops on Kenai and Nita who are laughing and talking by a fire not even realizing that Koda could’ve drowned behind them eons ago and no one would’ve been the wiser. I have a feeling these two are somehow the ancestors of the parents from Rugrats. Nita asks Kenai if he’s ever considered going back to being a human. He says that he’s thought about it and before you can say ‘obvious misunderstanding’, Koda interrupts and says that he is going to leave him for Nita and become a human again and he runs away. Kenai and Nita sit on their asses long enough for him to get a good head start.

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So yeah now they’re ripping off their own movie. Koda ran away in the last movie too, also in the snowy mountains.

Kenai and Nita search for him by following his tracks in the snow. Even though Kenai showed amazing tracking skills with those raccoons, he completely misses the footprint that leads into an ice cave, but Nita finds it. She also fails to tell Kenai because the plot said that Nita and Koda needed to have a heart to heart.

Nita finds Koda hiding in a hole in the wall of the ice cave and tries to bring Koda back, claiming it’s not safe, but he refuses. As the cave starts to collapse, he jumps into Nita’s arms. Well, that’s kinda what she meant by unsafe….

They manage to escape, but Koda gets pinned under a bunch of ice. Nita saves him, but flings them over the cliff in the process. They dangle over the edge while an avalanche occurs due to the collapse. They somehow ride the broken cliff piece on top of the avalanche (rocks do that?) but inevitably get buried. Kenai spots them and surprisingly only yells out Koda’s name. As he digs them out, again, all he says is Koda’s name. Ya know, you can show concern for both of them. There’s no need to play favorites just because Koda overreacted prematurely and you’re a terrible brother.

Koda explains that he believes Kenai’s going to leave him to go off with Nita and become human. He said he does miss being human, but they’re brothers and he’d never leave him. If Koda had just let Kenai finish his sentence before, this whole thing could’ve been avoided….

Hearing this, Nita gets all whiny. How did we go from constant slapstick and stupidity to butthurt city and stupidity?

We cut back to Rutt and Tuke where they’re watching the northern lights. Rutt’s off on his own while the girls are cuddling with Tuke. Tuke asks Rutt to get them some twigs and Rutt chokes back tears and agrees to go. Hearing that he’s crying, the girls instantly gravitate to his sensitivity and cuddle with him. These girls are more easily swayed than girls who thrive on teen romance novels. Oh you’re good with kids!?

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They reach the falls and see the lights as they prepare to view the spring equinox.

Oh did I forget to mention that in this universe the spring equinox is a magical event made by the great spirits? It happens in an instant. Yup, the great spirits turn winter into spring in mere moments, melting feet of snow, growing grass, blooming flowers and more. Because gradually doing that stuff over the course of a few weeks wouldn’t have meshed well with the movie.

Koda brings up connecting with his dead mom through the lights as Nita mentions her dead mom as well. We get some cliché line about how you don’t need to see the spirits to know that the people that you have lost and are gone are within your heart forever. The speech couldn’t be more cliché if it were on a Hallmark card.

Despite this talk about spirits and dead relatives and this being called BROTHER Bear, I guess dead brothers need not apply to this conversation because Kenai never brings up his dead brother from the previous movie, Sitka. The guy dies for you, turns you into a bear to teach you a life lesson, and is a friggin’ eagle, which is awesome, yet you can’t even give him a verbal cameo? Nice. I will give some slack here as to why Kenai’s other brother, Denahi, makes no appearance as his voice actor committed suicide before this movie was created. However, he can still be mentioned.

They start the burning and the lights vanish. After the amulet is gone, Nita tries to talk to the boys, but find that the spell broke with the burnt amulet. This creates a mirror of the same scene from the last movie where Kenai becomes human and is hurt when he can’t understand Koda’s words. She tearfully says goodbye while Kenai and Koda simply roar and grunt at her.

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We get our first sad song as they go their separate ways. It’s actually a very good song. Much more memorable than the songs we’ve been given. It has a nice somber tone and melody that fits the mood right. I wouldn’t say it’s as good as “No way out” but I’d still download it.

Koda and Kenai reach some food while Nita reunites with her family and prepares for her wedding.

Koda talks with Kenai about Nita. He asks if her gave her the amulet because he loved her and he says it was a long time ago so it doesn’t matter. Kenai goes off to sleep to get to the ridge with all the berries that they were going to early in the morning.

Koda speaks to the spirits, moreso his mom, telling her that he’ll be fine on his own and that they should turn Kenai back into a human so that he can be happy. The spirit lights….flicker for some reason and we cut to Kenai waking up. They kinda trick you into thinking that the spirits did turn him back, but he’s still a bear. Rutt and Tuke inform him that Koda ran off to find Nita and bring her back to him to make him happy. Kenai freaks out because Koda will be killed by hunters the instant that he sets foot in the village.

We cut to Nita getting ready for her wedding again. She’s having doubts this time and tells her father than she can’t marry Atka. Aw, but we got to know him so well and fell in love with him during that 32 seconds of screentime with no dialogue or backstory. And we know she truly loves him because she never talks about any aspects of him whatsoever and really never brought him up at all.

They’re interrupted by screams as Koda runs around being chased by the villagers. Nita tries to stop them to no avail. We finally get dialogue from Atka a full hour into this hour and 13 minute long (including credits) movie. However, we don’t learn much about him besides he’s like every man in the village in that if a bear entered it, they’d want to kill it. Kenai bursts onto the scene roaring to get them away from Koda. They run away with Kenai getting grazed on the back by a spear, but don’t worry, the wound’s gone mere seconds later. Continuity!

Kenai sticks Koda in a tree and tells him to stay low while he drives them away. Despite doing his best to hide, other hunters catch Koda anyway while laughing like stereotypical villains.

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Rutt and Tuke surprisingly show up to save the day, but end up getting caught up in a tree as they try to jump on the hunters. Conveniently, the tree breaks and falls on the hunters, leaving Koda unharmed and the girls once again impressed.

Kenai tries to run away from Atka, but he can’t shake him. Kenai jumps onto a cliff, and Atka throws his torch on it to spook him while jumping on him with his spear. The two fight while Nita catches up to them. She tries to get them to stop, but only Kenai does. Atka throws the torch in Kenai’s face and pushes him over the edge of the cliff. I guess this scene could resemble the scene in the Lion King where Scar did the same thing, but not exactly.

Nita scolds Atka for what he’s done and goes to Kenai’s aid. Yes, Atka. You’re awful for doing what you were taught to do your entire life and has never been seen as wrong until this very moment since the bear was your fiancee’s friend. Oh and protecting the village from what appeared to everyone else as a violent rampaging bear. You bastard!

Nita and Koda go to Kenai’s side. He’s supposedly hurt but I don’t see how. Koda and Kenai are still speaking to each other in roars and grunts since Nita can’t understand them. It’s odd. This scene is the only emotional scene to me only because of the subtlety involved with not being able to understand them.

Kenai puts out his paw and Nita matches it with her hand, again, like Tarzan, and Kenai puts it to his heart to say ‘I love you.’ Eugh. Nita admits her love for him too and the great spirits make a cameo again. Apparently they’re loading the ‘Make Kenai human’ program as Koda tells them what he asked them to do and that it’s okay because he just wants Kenai to be happy again. Kenai tells Nita that he can’t become human and leave Koda, but Nita tells him that she can join him instead – BOOM! CALLED IT! NITA → BEAR RESOLUTION! *cough* Excuse me. I like making movie predictions.

Nita’s father comes and asks her if this is what she truly wants. She says yes and he gives her his blessing. What a cool dad. Interracial marriage still isn’t cool to some people, but he’s letting his daughter turn into a bear to marry a bear. We can all learn a lesson here people. It involves bestiality in some way I think, but it’s still an important lesson to learn.

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Also, since when do people order the spirits around? Last I checked, they do what they want when they want unless they feel like giving you a choice. What, is Koda’s mom pulling strings up there?

I’m sorry to say that, while the intro almost sounds like a remix, we don’t get a reprise of Transformation from the last movie, which sucks because that’s one of my favorite instrumental songs in the Disney franchise. Instead we get some mish mash dramatic music that sounds cobbled together. Sad. Face. 😦

Nita looks….kinda weird as a bear and we cut to their bear wedding with bear friends and the village merging together. Right, the villagers who were laughing maniacally at catching a bear cub are now cheering at a bear wedding. Okay, movie. Atka’s nowhere to be found here, by the way. I guess he got burned at the stake for trying to kill a bear which is now seen as a friend. Damn that bastard who only got about two minutes of total screen time and about two full lines!

This is a legit issue with me though because we’re left thinking that Atka’s an asshole when he’s supposedly a really nice and honorable guy. They could’ve resolved this a lot better. Have Atka be understanding like a good friend. If Nita really did love him enough to go through all this to marry him, he can’t be all that bad.

Surprisingly, Eagle-Sitka does make a brief appearance at the very end though.

The raccoons from before are also there to cheer them on for reasons beyond my understanding. Why would you cheer on characters that stole what you believed was your stuff and flung you across the forest by a tree?

We end on the great spirits changing the cave wall drawing of Kenai and Nita as humans together to bears. Because little details like that need to be changed by great and powerful spirits.

The end.

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Wow was that a big disappointment. To it’s credit, they could’ve done a lot worse, but what they did do still wasn’t really good. The movie’s a bore. It’s predictable as hell, the tone is so much more different than the original, Kenai and Nita’s backstory as well as the story of Atka and Nita aren’t fleshed out enough or, in the latter’s case, at all.

Why did Kenai love her back then? Because they played for a minute and he rescued her as she almost drowned? Why were they best friends? What did that amulet mean to Kenai? He’s the one who was wearing it before he gave it to Nita. It must’ve meant something to him. What was the story with Atka? Was it an arranged marriage thing like Pocahontas and Kokoum? What’s his backstory? How’d she meet him? Does he have any form of personality beyond hunting and standing at the altar? Why’d she never see Kenai again after that incident at the falls? How’d her mom die?

This is one of those movies that had nothing to really build on. The story decisively concluded. You could’ve done something with it, but why’d they have to go the cliché angle of making a sequel for the sake of giving everyone a love interest? Except Koda, I guess, but now he has an older sister/mom figure.

Brother Bear is really a movie that shouldn’t have been built on, however. Other than possibly showing us a grown-up Koda having some adventure or learning an important life lesson, there’s just not much to be done here. The story has a solid beginning, middle and most of all, end. No one was yearning for Kenai to get married after that.

Nita is annoying during the first half, but gets gradually more tolerable as time goes on. I never reach a point where I actually like her, but she was reaching good annoyance levels in the first half, so at least she avoided the dangers of my wrath.

On a technical aspect, the art and animation is very good for a Disquel, even if they seem to be going overboard with the color saturation, but not quite as good as the previous movie. It’s Direct-to-Dvd-ish while not being TV-series-ish like Hunchback or Aladdin. Also, we don’t have nearly as many epic views or sights to look at, if any, during this movie unlike the first one where practically everything was gorgeous.

The music was also better than most Disney Sequels, but nothing particularly memorable to me outside of that one sad song. Phil Collins doesn’t return to do anymore work on this movie, which is disappointing.

The acting is good, but I can’t mesh Patrick Dempsey with Kenai. He just doesn’t sound right.

Bottomline: As a movie, it’s just okay. As a Disquel, personally, I’d skip it, especially if you were a fan of the previous movie. It’s a predictable, confusing and lifeless movie meant to shoehorn in some love stories into the Brother Bear universe. The writing’s not very good and there are many scenes that seem almost ripped directly from other Disney movies. It has some moments that are legitimately good, and it didn’t make me seriously angry, but it’s absolutely nothing that you’d need to watch unless you like watching Mary Sue Disney fanfiction come to life. It could’ve been much worse, but I still can’t recommend it.

Recommended Audience: I think we actually get a fairly subtle sex joke. At the beginning of the movie, Rutt and Tuke are being chased by a buffalo or something while looking for a mate and Rutt says that she looked like a moose from behind….yeah. Other than that, it’s your basically sterile Disney sequel. 5+