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Brother Bear and I, Robot

January 20, 2005

In the last few days I had the chance to watch two movies that I skipped during their box-office lifespans. One of them, Disney’s Brother Bear, was actually not bad. The other one, I, Robot, wasn’t so much a dissapointment as just pretty boring. My commentary on both follows.

Disney’s Brother Bear is the story of a young man in a tribal society who is transformed into a bear because of some unwise acts which lead to the death of his older brother. Another brother interprets his transformation as death, and stalks the man’s new bear-form thinking that the bear murdered his brother. Along the way the man-bear meets up with a little cub, and hilarity ensues. The story itself, while a modified form of the typical Disney pablum, manages to come off as at least somewhat heartfelt. Where the stories of Pocahantis and Tarzan come off as dulled down versions of the original tales, this telling of a legend actually seems to get across some of the intent despite some heavy Disneyfying.

The high point of this film is the simply amazing animation. This film was the last done by the crew at the Disney-MGM studio, who previously had done “Mulan” and “Lilo and Stitch”. The quality of the animation in this film is simply top notch. I can’t believe they let these guys go. The north woods landscape really lets the animators go nuts with backgrounds and creature elements.

I, Robot on the other hand is just this thing that sits there on your TV screen and then ends. Very very “eh”. In a nutshell, I, Robot is the story of a detective who discovers that an AI has gone nuts and is using the rollout of a popular new helper-bot series to take control of the world from the self-abusing humans. Will Smith phones in his performance, the female lead who plays opposite him is unremarkable and uninteresting, and the plot dissolves a ton of Sci-Fi cliches into their most boring elements and then pours them into a single film.

This movie suffered badly from what I’m beginning to call “Minority Report Syndrome”, where the questionable CGI overwhelms the film in a washed out quality. This is, I believe, meant to evoke the high-tech future but instead of wowing me leaves me wondering about the underlying social fabric of this filmworld and doubting that the writers ever fully understood the material they were approaching.

There were some pretty obvious product placements in the film, too. If a product actually gets mentioned in your film, you’re shilling. Bah.

Completely unrelated to the above, details are now available on the Incredibles 2 disc set. Lots of good stuff there, but the one I really look forward to would be

VOWELLET – AN ESSAY BY SARAH VOWELL

Sarah Vowell, the voice of Violet Parr, also has a secret identity as a real-life writer and public radio documentarian. Enjoy Sarah’s unique point of view as she delights in the adventure of becoming an Incredible superhero.

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