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Two Brothers

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Two Brothers

Starring: Guy Pearce, Jean-Claude Dreyfus
Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud
Rated: PG
RunTime: 109 Minutes
Release Date: June 2004
Genres: Family, Drama

*Also starring: Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Freddie Highmore, Oanh Nguyen, Moussa Maaskri, Vincent Scarito, Stephanie Lagarde, Nozha Khouadra, Annop Varapanya

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Review by Harvey Karten
3 stars out of 4

You can spend $6000 to go on photo safari in Tanzania or Kenya, living in basic accommodations, dining (ugh) on zebras, mosquitos at no extra charge. If that's OK with you, that's your problem. I'm content to see safari-style films that give you far better photos than you could possibly take yourself and put you right up close to the animals you'd have to strain to see amid the traffic jams at Serengeti. Check out "Two Brothers," for example, Jean-Jacques Annoud, who directs and co-wrote the script, with Alain Godard, is fortunate in having Jean-Marie Dreujou as his first-class photographer. Dreujou gets up close to the subjects which, fortunately, are tame as a Siamese cat and like those felines are even photographed in part in Thailand–also Cambodia. The action takes place during the 1920's in French Indochine (now Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos). The picture is not only a Discovery Channel offering writ large but has stuff to say about environmentalism, colonialism, rapaciousness and cultural differences among Southeast Asians, British and French. (The French all speak English for the benefit of kids ages six to eight who will love the movie though they may not yet know how to read subtitles if they are products of our public school system.)

Annaud, whose 1989 feature "The Bear" deals with a cub who is orphaned and forced to fend for itself until it finds a new protector in a giant Kodiak targeted by hunters, is in his element. With a storyline that could be heartily approved by Rudyard Kipling, Arnaud takes us to a land or big adorable cats, evil hunters and greedy mercenaries, even to London where to the surprise of an auctioneer nobody bids for ivory tusks but great interest is shown in illegally taken booty from Cambodia and surroundings.

The principal subjects aside from handsome and manly Guy Pearce in the role of hunter-author Aidan McRory are tiger siblings Koumal and Sangha. During the infancy their father is killed (shades of Bambi) after which one infant, Koumal, is sold to a circus which abuses him into performing tricks while the other, Sangha, is taken by a rotund French official Eugene Normandin (Jean-Claude Dreyfus) to be a pet for his son. When the two cats escape and head back to the jungle–where author McRory insists they cannot survive having never learned to hunt–the tigers are said to be dangerous to the villagers: McRory is asked to shoot the two animals, but since the film is targeted to the small fry, he cannot bring himself to pull the trigger.

The dialogue is clunky and choppily edited, but who cares? The eponymous characters and not the caricatured apparatchiks are what the kids come to see. The two brothers meet the challenge, the shy brother bound to draw the oohs and ahs of the crowd particularly when in a game of hide and seek with the young lad, he hides in a bookshelf among the stuffed animals. If your child is motivated to ask you where the feline pups come from, unfortunately in this PG movie the sex scene is merely hinted at during the beginning of the action following which Dreujou shyly draws his camera aside.

To his credit Annaud lets the tigers speak for themselves and avoids dialogue during various segments of the pic, except when he inevitably suggests that the cats have a range of human emotions and can communicate their fears, their kinships, and their love for humans through an assortment of catcalls. The movie becomes repetitive at times, the story difficult to follow, but the jungle photography and particularly the closeups of Koumal and Sangha are spectacular.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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