Review: BRAVE

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

As I begin this review, I feel really torn between giving this film a mere 3 star rating or perhaps a generous 3.5 star rating.  To clarify, I really enjoyed Disney/Pixar’s latest entry, but not completely sure how much.  I can certainly state that Brave didn’t impress me quite as much, nor did it have the same emotional and entertaining impact that most of their catalog has had on me.  In fact, story-wise, it felt like a typical Disney fairy tale lacking the excellent writing and wonderful story telling that I have expected from Pixar.  Not known for typical animated family material, part of me felt disappointed and a little cheated that Disney/Pixar would follow such a pedestrian route with a movie that carries their name, a symbol of excellence in this genre. 

At the heart of this movie is Disney princess story.  This time the story takes place in Scotland within the kingdom of DunBroch.  Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald), daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) has grown frustrated with her mother’s insistence on carrying on the royal traditions that come with the crown. Merida, a tough, slightly tom-boyish archer wishes to break with these old customs, particularly the marital arrangements.  During the courtship rituals, Merida takes matters into her own hands and consults with a witch (Julie Walters) who agrees to cast a spell on Elinor so that Merida can persuade her mother to give up the traditions.  Things go terribly wrong and Elinor and Merida rush to reverse the spell before it permanently changes their lives. 

Written and directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell, with additional writing help by Irene Mecchi, Brave has that signature Disney feel to it, and lacks what Pixar usually brings to the table.  For the most part, I enjoyed the film.  It does have a certain witty charm to it; however, with a cookie cutter story, hit and miss humor, and less interesting characters than most Pixar offerings, Brave just doesn’t offer the same experience to which most of us have grown accustomed. With the exception of one delightfully surprising twist to the story, the conflict and resolution played out highly predictably without any real tension or suspense.  Also, the movie, which actually plays at a mere one hundred minutes, felt much longer.  The CG animation does not disappoint.  Visually, the film is gorgeous and the 3D well done, but not necessary.  Unless one absolutely loves 3D movies, I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra money for the gimmick which really doesn’t add much to the experience.  

The characters have a certain enjoyable charm, but I honestly did not connect with them whole heartedly, so I did feel a bit less empathy than I normally do for Pixar characters.  The cast members all perform admirably, but honestly have lackluster material with which to work.  In addition to MacDonald, Connolly, and Thompson, the voice-talents include Robbie Coltrane (Lord Dingwall), Kevin McKidd (Lord MacGuffin/Young MacGuffin), and Craig Ferguson (Lord Macintosh). Again, everyone offers wonderful work, in terms of voice-acting, but no real stand-outs shine due to the limitations of the material. 

So, as I just evaluated this film, I have come to the conclusion that a 3.5 star rating would be too generous.  A three star rating feels right and justifiable, considering the flaws and the average score that I give the script.  I liked this movie, but just didn’t love it.  I would probably watch it again, but on television and wouldn’t pay to see it on the big screen again.  As for my recommendation for those who have not watched Brave, I think most die-hard fans of Disney/Pixar will find some enjoyment in it, but will ultimately be disappointed.  I can only recommend catching this film as a matinee and don’t think it deserves a full priced ticket.  I am certain that kids will love it, but perhaps the adults may have mixed feelings.  I definitely had those as I left the theater.

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