Review: BRAVE

By Laurie Coker

Rating: C+

I always look forward to Pixar’s freshest offerings, and such is the case with Brave. My grandson really, really wanted to see it, so I gladly obliged. He truly enjoyed the adventures of Pixar’s newest heroine, but while I did love watching it and all its impressive visual rendering, I must say, Brave’s plotline falls far short of the studio’s previous films, especially when set up against the prior movies’ socially pertinent more universal themes.

Merida (Kelly McDonald), the film’s heroine, suffers under her mother the Queen’s (Emma Thompson) traditional ideas and heavy hand. While her mother trains her to be the perfect wife, Merida prefers to ride her gallant steed and to practice the un-ladylike art of archery.  When it comes to the day where a man from one of the neighboring tribes (or clans) must win Merida’s hand, the girl rebels, shows up all the guys (an easy task given there are all awkward and goofy clowns) and runs into the forest, where she meets a witch who will grant her a wish. She asks for things to be different and with a magic cake, conjured by the witch, in hand, she goes home to change her future, one her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), reluctantly supports too.

Certainly the story touches on mother/daughter relationships and a few other things, but unlike the clear and timeless social issues of aging, growing up, facing fears, learning to love and friendship that make the other Pixar films so pertinent, Brave’s theme is less global and more narrow – appealing mainly to female tweens. It frustrated me that filmmakers chose to have utter idiots vie for Merida’s hand. I realize she is meant to outshine her wooers, but lord these three are buffoons! Who can blame a girl from running away from imbeciles, tradition or not?

Brave offers proof that Pixar stays busy – its artist and production crew mastering their craft and that makes the film worth seeing. Merida’s hair is amazing, each strand perfectly rendered. Every aspect of the film’s animation impresses – no detail is missed, billowing smoke, sinewy spirits, drool, and the list goes on. The Pixar folks simply get better and better in animation. I am sure young girls will, like they do with Katniss of The Hunger Games, appreciate the strong heroine Merida, and I am equally sure Brave merchandise will fly off the shelves.  It be fair, my grandson did seem to like it, but more for the action and the excitement of the story than for the message about parental relationships. He appeared engaged throughout.

Splendidly cast and visually perfect, the rated PG for some scary bits, Brave pleases to a degree, but it lacks the real wallop of past Pixar favorites. Perhaps this has something to do more with Disney than with Pixar. Still, I am hoping Pixar will get its heart back. Cars 2 was okay and so is Brave, but they can’t touch Toy Story (1-3), Cars, Wall-E or Finding Nemo, or any of the company’s short films either.   I don’t think 3-D is necessary. If fact, I am really getting tired of those glasses and I am warned that more and more films will be in 3-D, Poo!  In my grade book, Brave, earns a C+. I would like to give it higher, but I just can’t.

 

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