Eager and full of anticipation, young Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix) and his brothers return from a long day of fishing in time to attend a village ceremony. At the gathering Kenai is to be presented with the symbol that will lead him in his journey to manhood. Secretly hoping for a great gift like bravery or courage, he is disappointed when the wise old woman (Joan Copeland) of their tribe gives him a carved bear and the virtue of love.
The guiding, but seemingly girlish, quality is enough to net a hearty ribbing from his older brothers Sitka (DB Sweeny) and Denahi (Jason Raize) who are already developing their traits of leadership and wisdom. Disappointed, Kenai determines to prove his manhood by pursuing and killing a bear that wandered into camp and stole their fish. But during his spite-driven hunting trip, he is magically turned into a bear himself.
When Denahi later comes upon Kenai's coat and spear, he believes the cinnamon-colored animal he sees has devoured his younger brother. Unaware of the transformation, Denahi vows revenge. Suddenly, Kenai the hunter becomes the hunted.
On the run he meets Koda, an overly chatty little cub who has been separated from his mother and needs a friend. Kenai, on the other hand, wants directions to the place where the lights dance on the mountains. Since Koda knows the way, Kenai reluctantly teams up with the little orphan, who, along with the other forest animals, accompanies him to the sacred spot.
Using the legendary style of Native Americans, the story unfolds beautiful explanations for the Northern Lights and the need for respect among all species. It also portrays the necessity for restitution, where possible, when one character discovers a wrong he's committed and tries to atone for the tragic mistake.
While older kids will likely warm up to this animated coming-of-age adventure, parents might want to think twice before packing up their youngest cubs and heading off to see Brother Bear. Two goofy, dim-witted moose (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, a.k.a. Bob and Doug McKenzie) dish out plenty of comic relief. But the film also has moments of intense scenes that may leave younger audience members squirming nervously in their seats, not unlike the underwater yarn, Finding Nemo.
Featuring the musical talents of Phil Collins, Tina Turner and others, this visually entertaining film gives Brother Bear a unique opportunity to walk in another man's moccasins, or in this case paws. While on that path, he unearths the meaning of love and finds a whole new perspective on brotherhood.