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Tiger tale

Culture | Movie Review: Two Brothers

Issue: "Summer Books 2004," July 3, 2004

Two Brothers is an involving adventure tale for kids with enough subtlety and nuance for parents, a rarity among "family" films. It comes from director Jean-Jacques Annaud, returning to familiar territory 15 years after The Bear, his celebrated account of an orphaned bear cub in the Canadian wild. This time, Mr. Annaud's focus is on two Bengal tigers taken from their home in the Asian jungle.

The tiger siblings in Two Brothers (rated PG for mild violence), Kumal and Sangha, are separated from their mother and each other by famed hunter Aidan McRory (Guy Pearce). The simple story follows each brother (and, along the way, McRory) in their separate directions, leading up to a dramatic reunion in a royal fighting ring.

Mr. Annaud, known for taking his camera to unexpected places, assembled some remarkable footage of the two tigers. The film's production notes claim that 99 percent of the animal shots are of real tigers, a remarkable feat considering the human characteristics-even emotions-imputed to the cubs. Despite this, the film never sinks into the kind of cloying sweetness that marks most animal movies. The tigers remain ferocious animals, and the film is stronger for it. In fact, the tigers are more captivating on screen than any of the human characters. Like The Bear and Mr. Annaud's earlier Quest for Fire, much of Two Brothers is wordless, and it's most effective during these quiet animal-centric moments.

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Even the film's conservationist message is balanced. McRory isn't a stereotypical evil white invader. In the end, he lays down his gun, but his transition from hunter to helper happens while still acknowledging the danger these jungle beasts pose to man.

Released in the shadow of much bigger event movies, the offbeat Two Brothers may be the most rewarding family film of the summer.

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