Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Brother Bear

Reviewed by: Caroline Mooney
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Young children
Genre:
Kids Family and Animation
Length:
1 hr. 25 min.
Copyright, Walt Disney
Copyright, Walt Disney
Copyright, Walt Disney
Copyright, Walt Disney
Copyright, Walt Disney
Copyright, Walt Disney
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney

bears in the Bible

Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Rick Moranis, Jeremy Suarez, Dave Thomas, Joan Copeland | Directed by: Aaron Blaise, Bob Walker | Produced by: Chuck Williams, II | Distributor: Walt Disney

Let’s face it, Walt Disney productions set the standard for animation films. Anticipating the bells and whistles big budgets afford, we look forward to Disney movies. “Brother Bear” delivers catchy tunes, no-expense-spared animation, an epic story, and of course, a moral lesson. Not unlike the film “Pocahontas,” “Brother Bear” is loaded with anti-Christian “spiritual truths.”

Set in the Pacific Northwest some 10,000 years before the Europeans settled in America, three Native American brothers, Kenai, Denahi and Sitka enjoy life within the security of their tribe. After a day of fishing, the brothers return to the village to attend an important religious ceremony. Kenai, preparing to enter manhood, eagerly awaits his gift, a chosen symbol determined by the Great Spirits, to adorn his neck and change his destiny.

The charm, believed to direct the destiny of its wearer, is taken very seriously. When Kenai receives his token of love, in the form of a bear, resentment and disappointment set in. Believing the bear to be a thief and destroyer of mankind, the young Indian boy, Kenai, vows to prove his manhood by hunting down and killing the bear who ambled into camp to steal some fish.

Through some mystical action of the Great Spirit, possibly to teach him a lesson, Kenai changes from the hunter to the hunted; he becomes a bear. When Denahi sees a bear and discovers his brother’s possessions, he fears Kenai is dead. Unaware that the bear is actually his own brother, Denahi determines to kill the bear. Kenai, unable to communicate to his brother, must run for his life. His destination—the place where the lights dance on the mountains, a sacred Indian ground.

On the way, Kenai meets Koda, a talkative, young bear cub who is lost from his mother and completely alone. Not really wanting a tag-a-long at first, Kenai acquiesces to the cubs request to come along, but only because Koda claims to know the way to the sacred spot, the one place Kenai desperately desires to find. Also along the way, Kenai discovers talking animals, a tradition with Disney, and a wise old bear. Fortunately, none of the characters burst into song. Instead, Disney went all out, commissioning Phil Collins to provide the singing.

In real life, few people have the opportunity to literally walk in someone else’s shoes; however, it happens often in the movies, “Freaky Friday,” both the old and new version for instance. Forced to roam the land as a bear, Kenai ultimately understands that bears are not enemies of man, but simply animals doing what they must to survive.

Also true to Disney form, the film layers humor and special effects to please both young and old viewers. Children will love Koda and the talking animals. Adults will appreciate the music of Phil Collins and the hilarious commentary provided by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, voices of the comic moose duo. Additionally, although “Brother Bear” is not a production of previous epic proportions, say the “Lion King,” for example, it is an entertaining film with the usual high quality animations, humor, and a few warm and fuzzy moments.

Concerns

Of concern to me is the Indian mysticism and “circle of life” thematic core of the film. Some critics might argue that the Great Spirit is God-like, but the spiritual tale includes communication with dead ancestors, tokens as destiny shapers, and equality of man and nature, common elements of Indian legends and directly opposed to God’s Word.

It could be argued that Disney is merely closely following the traditions of Indian legends, and most likely they are. However, parents may want to discuss the mixture of ancestor worship, mysticism, and Hinduism presented as a feel-good story of loyalty and friendship. According to the myth of the Great Spirit, we are all part of the great circle of life. Specifically, when we die, we become part of the Great Spirit, god-like and omnipresent.

The Shaman, for example, says that the “spirits of our ancestors.have power to make changes,” and that Kenai will have to make restitution with his dead brother before the Great Spirits will change him back into a person again. Moreover, the Great Spirits, the collective body of our dead ancestors and all other dead creatures, guide us and direct our destiny. This might sound to some like the telling of some harmless Indian legend, but to many people, particularly those not fully grounded in God’s Word, it is a nice way to say that everybody goes to some wonderful place after death and that our goodness ultimately makes us as gods.

What bothers me most about the movie “Brother Bear” is the not so subtle theme, that we are all “brothers”. Innocent sounding but completely unbiblical, is the idea that people are as valuable as animals, and that we all end up in the same vaguely defined place after death. According the book of Genesis, God clearly created man to rule over the Earth; man and beast do not share the same status in the eyes of God.

Parents need not worry about language. There is no cursing or vain use of the Lord’s name; however, some childlike name-calling peppers the dialogue for comic relief. The brothers tease each other as siblings often do. Insults such as “dog breath,” “Pine cone breath,” and “fat head” are exchanged. Some birds “poop” when flying. Otherwise, the language is clean and acceptable for children to hear.

There is one reference to alcohol, though it was over the heads of my children. One moose tells his brother they should celebrate the happy ending with a “cool bed of hops.”

A few scenes are quite intense, but this is not surprising considering the nature of hunting. Some hunters, for example, trap a bear. One bear, while charging a man, lunges into a spear. The audience sees the dead bear lying on the ground. In two other scenes, one of Kenai’s brothers falls into a dangerously raging river, and the other falls into a crevice. Kenai and Koda must flee from Kenai’s angry brother, but of course, the brother has no idea he is trying to kill his own sibling. The brothers clearly love each other; in fact, Sitka lays down his own life by triggering a huge landslide to spare Kenai from the spear of his other brother.

Conclusion

On a positive note, viewers of “Brother Bear” witness the reconciliation of the moose brothers, the sacrifice of one life to protect another life, and Kenai’s desire to make atonement for killing Koda’s mother. Though there are some good one-liners and a few moral lessons to bring home, the film’s emphasis on spiritual mysticism is of mammoth proportions and of grave concern to me. I urge parents to discuss the concepts of the Great Spirit, the circle of life, and “destiny”—before, during, and after viewing this film.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: None / Sex/Nudity: None

Year of Release—2003

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This is an all around good family Disney film. It has funny and clean humor. The two side character moose bring comic relief to a generally touching story. Some people may see a problem with the totems and other Indian beliefs that are potrayed. But that is what they are—Indian beliefs. Its not something to run and hide your kids from because it shows something different. Use it as a teaching oppertunity. Anyone who sees this as a tremendoud downfall of the movie should remember that it is a movie about Indians. You can’t have a movie that is based on an Indian family without their religion comming into play. “Brother Bear” is not preachy or pushy about the beliefs. It is a good clean movie with many imporant lessons that can be learned from watching. Its definitely one to take your kids to.
My Ratings: [Good / 4]
—Mark Sherrod, age 32
Positive—“Brother Bear” is a wonderful movie in the grand Disney tradition! This movie is filled with comedy, but is also a poiniant movie that will touch the heart. Some may be concerned with the tribal religious nature of this film, but they need not be. First, it’s important to realize that this film is set thousands of years ago, long before Christian missionaries began to spread the Good News to the indigenous tribes of North America. This fact makes it easy to explain to children that they are seeing mythology, not reality.

The movie offers strong Cristian values such as Love your enemy and vengeance is wrong. The overall theme of the movie “We (humans and animals) are all brothers, is also an important biblical truth that man in this utilitarian society of ours often forget. Yes, God did give man dominion over the animals, but headship is NOT superiority: “There is an eventuality of man as there is an eventuaity of animal. As one dies, so the other dies; they all have the samespirit, so there is no superiority of man over beast, for everything is vanity.” Eccl. 3:19-21 Overall, I would highly recomend “Brother Bear” to one and all.
My Ratings: [SLIGHTLY Objectionable / 4]
—Jeff Kauffman, age 32
Neutral
Neutral—I was not really sure what to expect from this film. From the previews and what I had heard about it I had a feeling that it was going to be like Disney’s “Pocahontas” and have an “animals are just like humans” type of message. However, once I got into the film, I began to realize that the true theme of the film did not revolve around that concept. After listening to some of the voices it struck me that most of the humans voices were primarily white sounding while most of the Bears were either African-American or some sort of other nationalities and made it seem like the film was really more about overcoming racism. While I thought this theme was nice, it still had a lot of Native American spirituality in it which could be a bit more confusing to children. While I think it was not too bad of a film, I would strongly advice to speak to your children about it before you see it. All things considered, it’s not the best thing that Disney has ever done, but in the same breath, I wouldn’t say it’s the worst either.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Dave, age 19
Neutral—I was not really sure what to expect from this film. From the previews and what I had heard about it I had a feeling that it was going to be like Disney’s Pocahontas and have an “animals are just like humans” type of message. However, once I got into the film, I began to realize that the true theme of the film did not revolve around that concept. After listening to some of the voices it struck me that most of the humans voices were primarily white sounding while most of the Bears were either African-American or some sort of other nationalities and made it seem like the film was really more about overcoming racism. While I thought this theme was nice, it still had a lot of Native American spirituality in it which could be a bit more confusing to children. While I think it was not too bad of a film, I would strongly advice to speak to your children about it before you see it. All things considered, it’s not the best thing that Disney has ever done, but in the same breath I wouldn’t say it’s the worst either.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Dave, age 19
Neutral—“Brother Bear” really could have had some potential as a good movie. Clean for the most part, in terms of sexuality, drugs, and language. The violence was intense, but it is repented of. Unlike most Disney movies, where violence is “Good vs. Evil,” like “Lion King” and “Sleeping Beauty,” there is no lead villain, and Denahi becomes bent on revenge when he thinks Kenai is dead.

My main problem is the spirituality. The idea of becoming like God upon death with “great spirits” is pure heresy and the exact lie Satan told Eve before the fall of man. When people die in real life, one of the two things happen: The saved go to Heaven, eternally present with God and eternally far from sadness, sickness, death, and pain. The unsaved go to perdition, eternally separated from God and eternally far from joy, health, comfort, and relief. In the end, “Brother Bear” and its direct-to-video sequel are indirect heresy packages.

Are there some good things in this movie and the sequel? Yes, there are: Most of the songs are beautiful, brotherly love is promoted, a young woman conquers her fear (in the sequel), and forgiveness amongst peers is glorified. Such a shame morals like the ones I just mentioned were used for a movie like this. The animals could also be viewed as promoting the good stewardism that God gave Adam in Genesis, but it’s sadly overshadowed by the idea of animal ghosts running the world. Pray for every soul involved in this movie.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Peter, age 22 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I usually check this Web site before my husband and I take our family to a movie, but unfortunately, with “Brother Bear”, I just assumed that it would be okay. I based that assumption on the fact that Finding Nemo was an excellent Disney film, and that they couldn’t go to far off base with this one. Boy, was I wrong! “Brother Bear” is filled with paganism, witchcraft, totem and idol worship. The power (one more time I might add) lies with a woman. She was shown to be the wise, all-knowing one, who knew what each member of the tribe needed to exemplify in order to attain oneness with nature. All of the totems were based on animals. Animals were shown to be more important than humans (especially at the end). I was disappointed, my husband was ready to leave and my kids knew it was a story all based on a lie wrapped in a pretty package. Please think twice before taking your kids to this one. I wish I would have been more discerning about seeing this, and will be wiser next time before attending a “Disney” film.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
—Pamela Allen, age 36
Neutral—It’s New Age. Not the true God of the Bible. The Indians believe that all thing have a spirit. God in all things. That’s not what the Bible says. God gave the spirit in man, not animals and other created things. We have a body, a soul, and a spirit. Animals have a body, but no soul.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Thomas Dickensheets, age 42
Negative—Take your 10 year old, but not your 4 year old. It was easy for me to decipher the spiritual and worldly realities of this movie, but it would not be for a child. I don’t care how smart you think your child is. A ten year old knows that spirits don’t just float around in the sky, but a 4 year old may not be aware of this. This movie should be PG-10, if there were such a thing. Other than that, it had great literary conflicts between man and nature, man and self, and man and beast. The relationship aspects were truly positive. Everyone gets along in the end.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Charles Collins, age 32
Negative—I was deeply disturbed by Disney’s “Brother Bear”. It is a story full of witchcraft and animism, completely unsuited to a film primarily targeted at our very young. The ideas that are expressed in the film are outweighed only by the catchy but idolatrous lyrics of the soundtrack. The closest message to a Biblical theme is “Love your bother”—alas, the film portrays all Creation as Man’s brother and pushes the false teaching that all dead creatures and humans become part of a mystical, God-like “Great Spirit.” This film is definitely to be avoided.
My Ratings: [Offensive/2]
—K.V., age 36
Negative—I usually check this Web site before my husband and I take our family to a movie, but unfortunately, with “Brother Bear”, I just assumed that it would be okay. I based that assumption on the fact that “Finding Nemo” was an excellent Disney film, and that they couldn’t go to far off base with this one. Boy, was I wrong! “Brother Bear” is filled with paganism, witchcraft, totem and idol worship. The power (one more time I might add) lie with a woman. She was shown to be the wise, all-knowing one, who knew what each member of the tribe needed to exemplify in order to attain oneness with nature. All of the totems were based on animals. Animals were shown to be more important than humans (especially at the end). I was disappointed, my husband was ready to leave and my kids knew it was a story all based on a lie wrapped in a pretty package. Please think twice before taking your kids to this one. I wish I would have been more discerning about seeing this, and will be wiser next time before attending a “Disney” film.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 2]
—Pamela Allen, age 36
Negative—I took my seven year old to this movie. I’d seen the previews and thought I would enjoy the movie as well as the kids. But it seemed like all the really good parts were in the previews. I’d also figured the spirituality of the film would be in line with Pocahantas, but I was wrong about that—it’s much more in your face in “Brother Bear”. And the overall story was frightening to my kids—lots of death. But in addition to being uncomfortable with the pagan overtones, I didn’t like this movie because the story just wasn’t too good. Disney has done much better!
My Ratings: [Somewhat Offensive / 2]
—Robin, age 34
Negative—Absolutely wicked philosophy, subtlety and beautifully presented. A few of its “truths:” Animals are as valuable as people. Animals are related to people (the title). Animals can be transformed into people and visa versa. Spirits. Magick. Also, crudeness and vulgarity regarding bodily functions, etc, as so many films today. Disney continues to drop like a stone regarding its presentation of amorality, immorality and moral confusion. Nothing about Christ can be found in this film.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/5]
—Jeff White, age 41
Comments from young people
Negative—This is one sad little mess of a disney movie. Absolutely pales in comparison to “Finding Nemo.” I don’t know if Disney thought they were on a roll with the latter movies success… but anyway, this movie was atrociously painful to sit through. I went just because my friend’s younger sibling wanted to see it. The jokes were NOT EVEN FUNNY!!! The only thing funny about this film was ONE preview that I saw while viewing another movie! And it wasn’t even part of the film! Terrible! Disney, what were you thinking? Save the money that would be spent on a ticket to see something decent. I say avoid it. But if cheesy, corny, unfunny films dripping with confused spiritual muck is your thing, be my guest.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/1]
—Nicole, age 14
Positive—“Brother Bear” is a beautifully animated film with a strong message about loving others. It does have strong spiritualism, but children young enough to get confused about the spirits shouldn’t see this movie anyway. MPAA carelessly rated this movie “G.” The ending is depressing (my parents cried), and sensitive kids ARE going to get upset at the end of this movie (it is really, really sad). Check screenit.com if you are worried about the end of this film. Overall, “Brother Bear” is the BEST movie I have ever seen in my life! If your kids are over the age of 10, take them to see this excellent movie… but be aware of the spiritualism.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—HakuAme, age 12
Positive—Although “Brother Bear” certainly should have earned a “PG” rating, it was a very good movie. There was Native American beliefs woven into it, such as the Great Spirits, but nothing that you might have to worry about. There was a lot of violence but most of it was off-screen; nobody was actually shown getting killed. My parents were crying as the movie is very sad at the end, so sensitive kids or those under the age of 8 should not see this movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Christa, age 13
Positive—Although “Brother Bear” certainly should have earned a “PG” rating, it was a very good movie. There was native american beliefs woven into it, such as the Great Spirits, but nothing that you might have to worry about. There was a lot of violence but most of it was off-screen; nobody was actually shown getting killed. My parents were crying as the movie is very sad at the end, so sensitive kids or those under the age of 8 should not see this movie.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 5]
—Christa, age 13
Positive—“Brother Bear” is a beautifully animated film with a strong message about loving others. It does have strong spiritualism, but children young enough to get confused about the spirits shouldn’t see this movie anyway. MPAA carelessly rated this movie “G.” The ending is depressing (my parents cried), and sensitive kids ARE going to get upset at the end of this movie (it is really, really sad). Check screenit.com if you are worried about the end of this film. Overall, “Brother Bear” is the BEST movie I have ever seen in my life! If your kids are over the age of 10, take them to see this excellent movie… but be aware of the spiritualism.
My Ratings: [SLIGHTLY Objectionable / 5]
—HakuAme, age 12
Negative—This is one sad little mess of a Disney movie. Absolutely pales in comparison to “Finding Nemo.” I don’t know if Disney thought they were on a roll with the latter movies success… but anyway, this movie was atrociously painful to sit through. I went just because my friends younger sibling wanted to see it. The jokes were NOT EVEN FUNNY!!! The only thing funny about this film was ONE preview that I saw while viewing another movie! And it wasn’t even part of the film! Terrible! Disney, what were you thinking? Save the money that would be spent on a ticket to see something decent. I say avoid it. But if cheesy, corny, un-funny films dripping with confused spiritual muck is your thing, be my guest.
My Ratings: [SLIGHTLY Objectionable / 1]
—Nicole, age 14
Positive—I took my two sons to see this movie knowing that a wealth of pagan spiritual ideas would be presented. However, I have already taught both of my sons that God’s Word is the only Truth in this world and that we were merely watching a “made-up” story. With that in mind, we all enjoyed it very much. The story focuses on love and redemption and those are two things that I have no problem with. To people without a solid Biblical worldview, the paganism could be slightly overwhelming, so be prepared for it. In fact, discuss it with your kids before you take them.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/3]
—Lee Modlin, age 33
Negative—This was a cute movie, but definitely one I would not purchase for my home collection. The music was fantastic and the quality very good. I did not like the theme of ancestor worship or the other themes that were counter-Christian, so far as ancient religions and spirituality. Good story, but I think it would put fanciful thoughts into children’s heads and encourage them in some respects to question what they believe or what they were taught at church.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Claire Guthrie, age 34
Positive—…an enjoyable movie for the entire family. While many cartoons these days have hidden innuendo and other elements included to keep the older crowd drawn in, “Brother Bear” simply sells a great story, which speaks across generations.

The story is one of spiritual growth/self-discovery. The movie only misses an excellent rating as the spiritual path of discovery is attuned to another religion. While unidentified, it would seem the movie takes place in Alaska and features Eskimos. The Eskimo religion in the film is based on a form of animalism. All animals, including people, have a spirit. When they die, they go to live in the sky (in the Aurora Borealis.) These spirits are guardians of the living and are able to do magic by transforming matter. For instance, the spirits can create flowers on the side of a snow-covered mountain.

The story features three brothers, who are apparently orphans. The oldest brother asks as father. At the age of 12, in their culture, the priestess goes to the mountain where the spirits touch the Earth to discover which spirit is the guardian of the youth. According to this tradion, Kenai (key-nigh) (the youngest brother) is given the guardian totem (in the form a necklace) of the Bear, which is symbolic of love. His task it to follow the path of his totem to become a man. more »
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Jeremy Cox, age 24
Positive—“Brother Bear” is the third motion picture created by Disney’s Florida Animation Studio. Most parents and kids know about this popular movie from commercials and ads, and will probably know most of the storyline. Basically, “Brother Bear” is about a young native-american teenager who is transformed into a grizzly bear by the Great Spirits after killing a she-bear. His brother, Denahi, chases Kenai (now a bear) through the wilderness with intentions of killing him. As Kenai travels towards the mountain “where the lights touch the Earth” so that he can be turned back into a human, he meets the talkative cub, Koda, and a pair of dimwitted moose brothers, Rutt and Tuke.

Kenai finds out that Koda was separated from his mother and plans on meeting her at the Salmon Run, a yearly gathering place for bears where they fish and tell the stories of their journeys to their friends. Since the mountain where Kenai is headed is close to the Salmon Run, Kenai reluctantly agrees to allow Koda to travel with him. At first, Koda annoys Kenai, but eventually they become close friends and even consider themselves to be brothers. Nevertheless, the happiness is soon interrupted when Kenai discovers the horrible truth about Koda’s mother. Kenai feels so terrible about what happened to her that he runs away and soon crosses paths with Denahi again. There is yet another life-and-death struggle between bear and human with an outcome that I will leave for you to discover yourself. more »
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Christa Quillin, age 13
Movie Critics
…large theological missteps… If the eco-pantheism of “Pocahontas” could be quantifiably boiled down and deposited in a container, that, let’s say, filled a quart canning jar, then this film’s spiritualism would fill an oil drum…
—Bob Waliszewski, Plugged In
…the anti-hunting stance is so overt that even non-hunters might cringe a bit…
—Jeff Strickler, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune
…Disney’s latest animated feature is kinda creepy and feels like two movies, neither of which is very exciting…
—E! Online
…Frightening/Tense Scenes: Heavy | Music (scary/tense): Extreme | Violence: Moderate…
—ScreenIt!
…caution for questionable content about ‘spirits and magic’…
—Alan Boyer, Preview Family Movie and TV Review
…definitely a second-team affair, featuring two first-time directors. The hand-drawn animation is alternately static and inconsistent, and the story may be too downbeat for younger kids, who are most assuredly the target audience…
—Bill Muller, The Arizona Republic
…The journey is diverting in a Saturday-morning kind of way, but it doesn’t compare to, say, “Finding Nemo”
—Mark Caro, Chicago Tribune
…Strong pagan worldview includes witchcraft, totem worship, environmentalism, and ancestor worship…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide