Pixar tries to return to form after striking out with Cars 2 by establishing its first female protagonist. Can the animation juggernaut succeed with a female helming the project or do they go 0-2 in the past two years?
Brave starts out with that beautiful animation that you come to expect from a Pixar film and with a little bit of resemblance to the opening of Finding Nemo, it introduces our protagonist, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) a young princess who unlike most typical Disney princesses has a little bit of vigor and fight to her.
This fight that Merida has within her is what drives her conflict with her mother, Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), who believes that Merida should be princess-like in order for her to fulfill her destiny of becoming the next queen. This central conflict is what is going to drive the issues that go on between the two characters for the entire movie.
Now the problem that most are having (and when I say most I mean the critics) is that this film is not up to “Pixar standards.” While I can understand where they are coming from with that I use this sports analogy to put in perspective what they are trying to get at by putting it on the “Pixar standard.” Pixar has become the New York Yankees of the animating world. They were on top every time they came out with a new film and nothing was acceptable but an Oscar worthy animated film. Now when the Yankees don’t make the World Series or god forbid even the playoffs, everyone chalks up their season as a total disaster even if they had a solid one. This is where Brave falls in. It’s not a terrible movie by any means and compared to most general animated features it is well above the norm. But when it comes to being a high level Pixar quality film it strikes out mainly due to a few qualities.
The first being that it never had any significant personalities. I picked the word personalities because there were many characters in the film but none that stood out. Think of Buzz in the first Toy Story, Dory in Finding Nemo, or Kevin in Up; someone who after you saw the film was a polarizing personality that brought a little more vibrato to the normal cast of characters and was someone unique and a little bit different than what the other characters had been established as. Brave does not have that character that stands out. It had a very fine cast, nothing wrong with it, but no one who was especially unique. The king was very funny and had a jolly personality and the three boys added some much needed comic relief but none of them had that unique character quality that is typical in a Pixar film.
The second thing missing was a sense of change within the adventure. The adventure between Merida and her mother to reach their resolution was rather short and in my opinion somewhat rushed. It seemed like the directors knew what they were trying to get at and gave enough effort to pass as being a resolution but never really dove into the problem but rather grazed the edge of it and moved on. This is probably what most people are having problems with when it comes to this film. It gives Pixar the chance to dive into the psyche of a girl and her mother but it never really goes as deep you would of liked. It almost gave the Disney version rather than the Pixar.
All that being said I did like the film very much. The visuals were stunning, the soundtrack enchanting, and the voice work was superb. Nothing but the best still from Pixar and while this may not of been another Finding Nemo or Up this still is a giant upgrade over both Cars movies and maybe even A Bug’s Life. The story, while not really an original take on it, was still engaging and Kelly Macdonald did great work with the character of Merida.
In conclusion, Brave is easily a strong return to form by Pixar who after Cars 2 shows that it still knows what it’s doing. I hope maybe they make another masterpiece in their next film but at the same time I highly enjoyed the work they gave in this particular film over most stuff that Dreamworks throws out there and leagues better than the new Ice Age movie coming out. It’s a family fun film that should have everyone looking for bagpipes at the end!
**By the way for any Miyazaki fans did you notice the similarities to Howl’s Moving Castle in it? Plus the crow that the old woman had was very Miyazaki and reminded me of a Spirited Away character.**