Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne

Review: ‘Brave’ is a disappointing, Disney-esque fairy tale that Pixar doesn’t quite pull off

Posted by Max Lalanne on June 22, 2012

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Brave has been touted as a, well, brave new step forward for Pixar for mainly two reasons. One, it marks the first time the animation studio ever has a front-and-center female protagonist, a fiery red-headed one at that. Two, it’s their first attempt at a fairy tale, one of the classic “A long time ago…” sort. And while having a headstrong heroine leading Brave is indeed a long-awaited, well-executed and simply expectedly great step forward, perhaps Pixar should leave the fanciful and simpler wonders of fairy tales to their parent company Disney’s handling, because I’m not sure that tackling such a different genre of it’s own is a step forward as much as an unfortunately regressive movement. The smart inventiveness and originality that Pixar projects normally have is muted in Brave, perhaps a victim of its own constrained and self-imposed setting that don’t allow the screenwriters to burst through with the captivating creativity that we’re used to. It’s not a bad film, mind you. It just seems damn out of place and awkwardly in a different league of its own, and not a top-notch one at that.

We wouldn’t know it judging from the unexpectedly lively and rousing start, which is wisely what was highlighted in the many trailers and clips. The afore-mentioned heroine Princess Merida (Kelly McDonald) loves nothing more than shooting her bow-and-arrow and riding through the neighboring forest on her horse with a wild and very un-royal attitude, to the dismay of her mother, the very queenly Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), and the jolly resignation of her father, the Viking-like uproarious King Fergus (Billy Conolly). But all these go-along-with-it fun times come to a somewhat end when suitors from the neigboring kingdoms arrive to win Merida’s hand, something that her parents apparently told her was inevitable but she still takes it rather badly. Maybe I would, too. The eligible sons of Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson), Lord McGuffin (Kevin McKidd) and Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane) are the very definition of lame, which leads to Merida breaking a sacred tradition and having a bitter spat with her mother. Oh yes, and accidentally unleashing a very, ahem, beastly curse that deeply affects the ones she loves as well as her much-talked-about fate.

Fom there Brave descends into a – story-wise, at least – familiarly pleasing and forgettably lazy tempo that lasts all the way to the end of the 90-minute film. It’s a very odd and bizarre direction where directors Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews decided to take the story to, but to say more will be to spoil the entire twist. And obviously leaning and focused toward the single-digit age group and bothering less with the accompanying adults than with other Pixar movies – they’ll still like it, but perhaps will find, for example, the silly and overused antics of Merida’s dastardly triplet of brothers decidedly juvenile and basic for Pixar – you don’t have the feeling that this movie was particurlarly a travail to think of and write. Yes, the animation’s gorgeous as usual, but the in-depth character developments are unusually left behind and the story’s not given much chance to prosper and glow, and we’re instead left with a sweet yet overly simplistic mother-daughter reconciliation tale. Perhaps the movie’s ultimate undoing is the brilliant track record that Pixar has (at least up to last year’s Cars 2), and that we can’t stop comparing their redoubtable filmography with each other. Brave doesn’t stack up to any of them, and that’s the truth. really. Here’s to hoping Pixar leaves the fairy tales to Disney and continue tackling edgier, smarter content like the good ol’ days.

Brave: B-

P.S – Remember to get to the theater early, because you don’t want to miss Pixar’s utterly beautiful Oscar-nominated short, La Luna.

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2 Responses to “Review: ‘Brave’ is a disappointing, Disney-esque fairy tale that Pixar doesn’t quite pull off”

  1. Mark Hobin said

    If I had to write a second review for this film, it would sound a lot like this. I was nodding my head in agreement throughout. Nicely said.

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