Brother Bear 2 (2006)
Brother Bear isn't necessarily bad; just kinda unmemorable. As I prepared to watch Brother Bear 2, I skewed my expectations appropriately and I was surprised to discover a sequel that may be better than the first.
Having accepted his bear form, Kenai (now voiced by Patrick Dempsey) lives with his new "brother" Koda (Jeremy Suarez) but cannot help thinking about his childhood friend Nita (voiced by Mandy Moore). She's about to get married, which prompts the spirits to set her on a spiritual quest. Nita and Kenai must address what might've been if he had stayed human while traveling to burn the amulet he gave her years ago. As they grow close once again, Koda wonders if he will get left behind.
Let me preface by saying that no matter what, this is still a sequel to Brother Bear. I might award this picture more stars, but if you disliked the first film you will this one too. If you liked it and want more, there you go. The story is similar to the first's but feels more original. Instead of having a duo on a trip, we have three people. Koda gets along with both, but Kenai and Nita argue frequently and Kenai is particularly reluctant to go on this journey. The young bear wants the issue to be resolved so he and his brother can move on with their lives, but the more time they all spend together, the more worried he becomes that Kenai will want to turn back into a human. While the title evokes a sibling relationship, Kenai is more of a father-figure. I think many children will relate to the scenario of seeing a new adult "threaten" to take away their single parent.
The animation looks quite good. All of the characters are on-model, it’s smooth and the new designs feel at home next to the ones we're revisiting. Speaking of which, if you enjoyed the duo of Rutt and Tuke (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), they're still funny and given larger role. Normally this would have approached Beetlejuice 2 syndrome, where a memorable character from a movie is given more attention in a sequel until he/she becomes unbearable, but it’s not the case here. The moose brothers are given a story that nicely parallels the main one.
There are two main weaknesses to the film. The first is Nita’s would-be husband, Atka (Jeff Bennett) who isn't developed at all. I think he only appears twice. He plays into a plot where a villain is crowbarred into the conclusion and it doesn't mesh with the rest of the story at all. The other weakness is the end of the film. There were basically four ending it could've gone with: Either Koda and Kenai get turned into humans and they live with Nita, Kenai decides to turn into a human being and leaves Koda behind, She decides to ask the spirits to turn her into a bear or the status quo is maintained and everyone moves on with their lives. I won’t say which way the story goes, but the “best” choice is not the one the movie goes with. That's a letdown because it's predictable.
Brother Bear 2 is a worthy sequel to the first film. If you enjoyed the first adventure of Koda and Kenai, you'll like this follow-up too. As far as these direct-to-video Disney sequels go, it’s near the top. That only means so much but since it comes "for free" with the main feature on Blu-ray, you already own it. I say check it out. (On Blu-ray, August 20, 2015)