- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
The film that Walt Disney has declared will be its final animated film crafted in the traditional hand-drawn way—
David DiCerto (CNS) calls it a "delightful animated fable. Directors Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker combine timeless themes with stunning scenery to craft an allegorical tale about love, forgiveness and man's fellowship with nature. Regrettably, the beautiful visuals are buttressed by Phil Collins' uninspired score."
Regarding the Native American folk tales on which the story is based, he adds, "The transformation tale is underpinned by an almost Franciscan spirituality which imparts a strong message about the interconnectedness of all living things, reminding us of our responsibility to live in harmony with the rest of God's creation."
Movieguide's reviewer, however, is far more concerned about the pagan beliefs of Native American culture than he is about any lessons the film might offer. "
The film is set in the Pacific Northwest where a boy named Kenai finds himself transformed by "the Great Spirit" into a bear. Kenai hates bears. But as he gets to know his fuzzy peers, he learns a lot about bear life and comes to appreciate animal behavior. During his quest to regain his human status, he encounters a wide variety of creatures, and learns that the lives of human beings and animals are of equal value.
Michael Medved (Crosswalk) says the film's message includes "uncomfortably pagan, New Age elements—with its emphasis on the interchangeability and equal value of human and animal souls. Do we really want the kids in the audience … to learn that a beast's life carries at least as much significance and satisfaction as a person's? The movie's surprising twist at its conclusion even suggests the superiority of non-human forms of life—an outlook that owes far more to PETA than to the Pentateuch." And yet he concludes that the film "offers abundant appeal to the family audience."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) says, "The animation … is at times spectacular. The characters are also well defined and generate sufficient warmth and emotion. Where I found
Holly McClure (Crosswalk) says, "While I appreciate a message of 'unity' in any movie for children … I resent the subliminal message that is in this movie. It confuses kids and perpetuates a belief that man is not superior to animals but that we are all just the same."
Bob Waliszewski (Plugged In) says, "
Mainstream critics are only mildly entertained; few of them find