A lot of my friends raved about Brother Bear when I was growing up but somehow I always missed actually watching it. As a result, I've pieced together the plot in my head second hand and it turns out that I was way off 😂 The actual plot of the movie was a lot more surprising than I had expected. The whole "man turned into bear" was a surprising pseudo-twist which I quite enjoyed and gave the movie a good heart and moral core. Still not so sure about the ending where he chooses to stay a bear though... that felt a little weird.
Otherwise, it's a pretty by-the-numbers Disney movie. You've got a main character on a clear moral growth arc, various misunderstandings and false assumptions which are tested and revealed, a bunch of quirky animal side characters, a vague sense of threat that constantly pushes the story forward, and a soaring soundtrack from a major Western pop artist. The only big difference is that this time the plot has been stolen from folklore instead of out-of-copyright kids stories, which I guess they've done before with Hercules too. We don't have any love interests or actually women at all, and there's no big showdown (really) or true villain.
It works pretty well and the animal characterisations are great. I loved the chipmunks and was really sad they were a one-shot joke, but the Canadian "bro" moose were decent and I enjoyed the mountain goats 😁 Animation is on point, humour lands well, and the overall plot is enjoyable. Songs are a little lacklustre (apart from the one that everyone knows, which is excellent but doesn't fit as well as I would have thought in the moment that it happens). Historical accuracy is dubious 😉
Still, I enjoyed Brother Bear and felt it held up pretty well. It's nice to see Disney starting to focus on non-white cultures too. Plus, I find it ridiculous that you've got Rick Moranis and Joaquin Phoenix in a film together!