Interest Level: Primary, Intermediate
Main Performers: Joaquin Phoenix; Jeremy Suarez; Rick Moranis
Director: Aaron Blaise; Robert Walker
Studio: Disney-MGM Studios
Run Time: 85 minutes
MPAA Rating: G
Kenai, an Eskimo boy, wants only to be a man and have the respect of his brothers. But in his coming-of-age ceremony, he is presented with the totem of the bear, a symbol of love. He is disgusted. In his frustration, and finding that a bear has stolen their fish, he leads his brothers on a dangerous hunt that kills both his oldest brother and the bear. The spirits are angered, and Kenai is turned into a bear. In order to regain his human form, Kenai is told he must go to the mountain. On his journey he meets a young bear, Koda, who offers to lead Kenai to the mountain. Meanwhile, they are being hunted by Denahi, Kenai’s other brother, who believes Kenai is the bear who killed their oldest brother and Kenai himself. Kenai and Koda make it to the mountain, and Kenai learns that the bear he killed was Koda’s mother. Wracked with guilt, he must decide what is more important: becoming a man or being a brother.
Kenai is the youngest of three brothers, and he is determined to prove his independence and strength as a man. When he is told that love, the Bear Totem, should direct his life, he demonstrates his youth by reacting in anger and ironically killing his own totem (i.e., a bear) and leading someone he loves to their death. This totem of love sets the theme for his story. When Kenai meets Koda, he initially sees him only as the bear he is (and hates). Slowly, Koda becomes more like a little brother. By the time Kenai learns he killed Koda’s mother, he loves Kenai as a brother, and this love helps him understand the mistakes he has made. Taking the role of older brother throughout the film matures him and changes his heart. In the end, when he must decide between being a man and being a brother to a bear, he chooses the path of love, the path of the bear.
*Contains mild violence.