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Movie Info


PG for mild violence (see note at bottom of the review)


June 25, 2004


1 hr., 49 min.




Guy Pearce, Christian Clavier, Freddie Highmore


Jean-Jacques Annaud


Jean-Jacques Annaud, Alain Godard


Universal Pictures


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Two Brothers

By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter - In 1989, "The Bear," a captivating movie about the adventures of an orphaned bear cub and its protector, a giant Kodiak, caused me to exclaim, "Wow, what a great film-going experience." The makers of that adventure have just completed "Two Brothers," a Rudyard Kipling-ish fable concerning twin tigers whose idyllic life is interrupted by plundering white hunters. Once again, I say, "Wow, what a great film-going experience!" Bravo to writer/director Jean-Jacques Annaud, who maintains that the greatest special effect is still the process of storytelling.

Set in the jungles of Southeast Asia, it quickly becomes apparent that the film is a parable dealing with friendship and the bond between brothers. The two tiger cubs - one shy, the other bold - are cruelly separated by fate. The bold brother is sold off to a circus, where homesickness and living in a cage rob him of his spirit. The shy cub becomes the beloved companion for the governor's lonely young son, until the child is forced to give him away to a man resolved to break his gentle nature and turn him into a fighter for sport. A year passes and the brothers find themselves reunited - but as forced enemies pitted against each other.

The often-breathtaking cinematography, the exotic locations filmed around the temples of Angkor near the Cambodian city of Siem Reap, the director's energized pacing, and the actors, especially Guy Pearce ("Memento," "L.A. Confidential"), who seems genuinely simpatico with his feline costars, each blend together, giving viewers a colorful, enchanting tale.

Then there are the animals. As cubs the expressive tigers continually garner awes and giggles from the audience. Later, fully grown, they generate a mix of wonder and respect. And thankfully these cats don't talk. Oh, they communicate. Very clearly. But director Annaud and associates wisely eschew conventional voice-over narration and there's no cutesy dialogue uttered by the likes of Gilbert Gottfried. Like people, animals have personality. The fact that the animals' persona has been captured on film reflects the regard -- and patience -- the filmmakers have for their subjects.

Even more powerful than the tigers, however, is the story itself. It has, dare I say this, an old-fashioned quality. Before special-effects departments became the stars of movies, emphasis was placed on storytelling. Occasionally, as in the case of this film, we see a moviemaker return to the spinning of yarns. As moviegoers have been overdosed on computer gimmickry, the old scenario has become new again.

Although Annaud wisely chooses to put his social commentary second to the entertainment value, he does address contemporary issues such as the conservation of nature and the preservation of culture within his morality play. What's more, whether intentional or not, there are striking similarities to several biblical parables about overcoming evil and hatred. The filmmaker captivates with a strong narrative, proving that a witty, well-told yarn is ultimately more satisfying than attacking computer-generated Trojans or Harry Potter wand-pointing wizardry. Annaud gives us an exciting action adventure for the whole family, one with soul, charm and intrigue.

Note: Toward the beginning, we see two tigers copulating, resulting in the birth of the film's central figures. But this sequence is handled with discretion. Indeed, the production is careful not to overwhelm or exploit. We see some violence, including the hunting and shooting of tigers, a brief battle between the two brothers, and the animals defending themselves against harsh humans, but gore and excess have been carefully avoided. The film shows how cruel man can be, but also gives examples of his ability to better himself. That said, one scene needs to be pointed out. At one point, a brave boy approaches a grown tiger that he raised. Parents should point out that this is just a movie - not real life - and that children should not approach wild animals.

Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. For more information, visit Review used by permission.

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