Brother Bear

Phil Collins

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Brother Bear Review

by James Christopher Monger

Disney retired what was once Sir Elton John from the office of animated-film/adult-contemporary hitmaking and replaced him with the yet-to-be-knighted Phil Collins. A squire he may be but, unlike fellow composer Randy Newman, Collins is in no danger of writing intelligent and engaging songs that go largely ignored by the masses, making his Brother Bear score a likely Oscar contender. That's not to say that middle-of-the-road pop confections like "On My Way" and future American Idol standards such as "Look Through My Eyes" are devoid of craftsmanship -- they positively radiate Hollywood gloss -- it's simply indicative of pop culture's voracious appetite for audio fast food. Here Disney continues to regurgitate the same musical formula that fueled The Lion King by dipping mediocre pop songs into a heap of worldbeat dressing and dropping them into the public's open mouths like a mama bird. Collins, a talented and accomplished musician, does his best to rise above the restrictions of the cartoon genre by inserting some good old-fashioned Genesis-like prog rock into the mix. The exhilarating "Transformation," which features the heavenly voices of the Bulgarian Women's Choir, channels the superb work done by Hans Zimmer on the aforementioned Lion King soundtrack, and like "The Circle of Life" before it, its serpentine melody features prominently throughout the piece, firmly establishing a sense of place that is sorely lacking in forgettable exercises like "Welcome" and "No Way Out." Tina Turner utilizes the cool mystique that made Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome's "We Don't Need Another Hero" such a gem, in the lush, mid-tempo hymn "Great Spirits," but even she can't save Brother Bear from being, forgive me, unbearable.

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