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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Two Brothers (2004)

"You're a ferocious beast, so act like one!"
- Saladin (Moussa Maaskri)

Review By: Nate Meyers   
Published: December 20, 2004

Stars: 30 Extraordinary Tigers, Guy Pearce
Other Stars: Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Freddie Highmore, Oanh Nguyen, Philippine Leroy Beaulieu, Moussa Maaskri, Vincent Scarito, Ma Anh L, Jaran Phetjarean, Stephanie Lagarde
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud

MPAA Rating: PG for mild violence
Run Time: 01h:44m:57s
Release Date: December 21, 2004
UPC: 025192412721
Genre: family


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B C+BB+ B

DVD Review

Tigers are perhaps the most beautiful animals in the world today, so it easy to sit back and watch Jean-Jacques Annaud's Two Brothers. Annaud is clearly a conservationist and this movie takes him back to the success he had with The Bear, recreating much of the beauty that he achieved earlier while delivering a well-intended message that appears self-defeating.

There really isn't much of a story to Two Brothers, but more a collection of images. Two young cubs, Kumal and Sangha, are born in the jungle of Indochina during the early part of the 20th century. They frolic in the freedom the thick forestry affords them, but the encroachment of man is about to put this to an end. The famous hunter Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce) enters into the jungle to find sacred statues to increase his fortune, but while scavenging the jungle he happens upon Kumal and Sangha's parents. The father is killed, but the mother escapes with Sangha. For some inexplicable reason, the hunter McRory bonds with the little Kumal, who was left behind during the conflict.

There's little development in the plot beyond this point, except that Kumal's mom makes every effort to get him back until she eventually is nearly killed by poachers and retreats into the jungle. The result is Kumal being sold to a circus and the newly abandoned Sangha becoming the pet of the civilian Administrator's son, Raoul (Freddie Highmore). The tigers are stunning to look at, but any tiger, whether a cub or an adult, is a wild and deadly animal. The scenes between Raoul and Sangha are adorable, especially when the two sleep together as Raoul's mom reads a bedtime story, but the script, written by Annaud and Alain Godard, doesn't make the point that tigers are dangerous and shouldn't be kept as pets.

Eventually the two cubs grow up and, by that time, Sangha has been sold to the country's ruler, simply called His Excellency (Oanh Nguyen), and turned into a ferocious beast. Inevitably, His Excellency wants Sangha to do battle with another tiger and the only one available is Kumal. After a brief scrap, the two brothers recognize one another and escape into the wilderness, free from mankind. The whole sequence of events is fairly predictable, culminating in a scene sure to bring tears to one's eyes, in which little Raoul tells the tigers they must go live in the wilderness, so as to avoid their enemy (i.e. mankind).

(Two Brothers makes a strong point that people should leave tigers alone in the wilderness, yet it uses 30 highly trained tigers to act out the leading roles. Additionally, the only way anybody can come to care about these animals as characters is through anthropomorphizing them, yet the movie at the same time portrays humans as the enemy to nature and wildlife. However, these are the concerns of an adult and will likely not occur to children.)

What children will get is a collection of beautiful images featuring strikingly gorgeous tigers having fun. It's not brain surgery, but it is good family entertainment, enough to sustain the film's running time. This DVD will make a nice rental for a rainy afternoon, with its pleasant image transfer (though, at times it fails to conceal the much grainier and duller footage that was recorded by HD-video instead of film) and lively Dolby Digital 5.1 mix.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: C+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes
Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanishyes
Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Thunderbirds DVD & Video, Balto: Wings of Change DVD & Video, Shark Tale DVD & Video, The Land Before Time: The Invasion of the Tinysauruses DVD & Video
Production Notes
1 Documentaries
6 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Jean-Jacques Annaud
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Costume Design Gallerya slideshow of the original costume sketches compared to the final product.
Extras Review: Considering that Two Brothers didn't do very well at the box office, there's a good amount of extra material present on this release. Prior to the main menu there are four previews for upcoming DVD and video releases directed at kids. First is Thunderbirds, followed by Balto: Wings of Change, then Shark Tale, and The Land Before Time: The Invasion of the Tinysauruses. Tinysauruses features a sing-along music video in its trailer, but other than that it is pretty standard promotional material.

Next is Jean-Jacques Annaud's Journal. It can be read in either English or French and is a very thorough telling of the production schedule. It contains a lot of jargon about setups and other technical aspects of the filmmaking process, so don't expect an exciting page-turner. Nevertheless, it is a nice glimpse into the mindset of a director as he makes his film. Accompanying the journal is a feature-length commentary also by Annaud. His comments on the making of the film make it more apparent than the movie does about his concern with people viewing tigers as pets. Part of the commentary is his recollection of living in French colonies as a child and some of it is his re-telling of research he did about tigers and their trainers, but for the most part he gives the details about how each scene was made. He points out how every scene with actors and tigers in the same frame was done in double pass, making the technical accomplishments of the visuals even more amazing.

Those are the more grown-up extras, the rest are prime viewing for kids. There's a host of featurettes, starting with a brief Call of the Wild (0m:49s) clip show of different tigers growling on set. After that is Tiger Brothers (3m:41s), an interesting look at how the tigers were treated during filming. Even the little ones appeared to be a handful, especially the one that bit Guy Pearce's shoulder. There's also Tiger Trainers (4m:36s), which explains the "acting" process for the tigers. Each of these featurettes has a lot of behind-the-scenes footage and are rather enjoyable.

The next set of featurettes devote themselves to the technical aspects of the production. Tiger Tech (3m:41s) is a look at the animatronics used for some of the shots and the synthetic tigers look amazing (though nowhere near as beautiful as the real things). Next is Tiger Cam (3m:21), which takes us into the different techniques used for keeping the camera operators safe around the tigers. Annaud also explains why he shot everything in both film and HD-video, because it would enable him to catch things the tigers did while they were reloading cameras. There's also a Location Scouting (2m:48s) tour by Annaud about why he chose to film in Cambodia and the power of the locations.

Following the featurettes is a slide show of costume designs (1m:50s) that feature the different costume drawings and the final costumes as worn by the actors. There's also a split screen comparison between storyboards and select scenes (4m:55s). However, the best feature on the disc is Wild About Tigers (35m:43s), narrated by Guy Pearce. It gives a very thorough history of how tigers evolved and their plight in the past century. The closing minutes consist only of footage of tigers hunting their prey. There is also a DVD-ROM link for those who have that capability.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Two Brothers is a nice spectacle. There's enough excitement to keep children engaged and this DVD does a nice job of representing the images and sounds of the movie. The bonus materials should also prove to be a big hit with kids, being both entertaining and informative.

 


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