Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell
Written by Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, and Irene Mecchi
After Cars 2, I think it’s right to be wary of Pixar. OK, so this is really more on John Lassiter, but the fact that this was the first significant dip in Pixar’s normally high quality didn’t help. And from the trailers, my hopes were not high for Brave restoring them. After seeing the movie…it’s a mixed bag.
The story is about Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a princess in a Scottish kingdom. She wants to be an adventurous archer, while her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson), wants Merida to be a princess and marry one of the sons of the other clans. One disagreement and a magic spell later, and now Merida has to fix her problems before time runs out.
It can be hard to talk about the story without spoiling plot twists that the trailers and merchandise have already sufficiently hinted at, if not outright said. In fact, the trailers may have completely killed the entire first act. Pretty much every joke in it has already been ruined. In general, the jokes just aren’t at the Pixar high here. It’s pretty pure slapstick, and not necessarily well put-together slapstick. There’s also the mute triplets, who got the audience laughing every time, even when they weren’t necessarily doing anything funny. The addition of a witch voiced by Julie Walters adds a few nice jokes, but she’s a sadly minor character in here.
Where the movie does succeed is in its dramatic moments and its good looks. This is Pixar’s first movie that doesn’t take place in modern times or the future, and it’s a genuinely unique feel for one of their movies. The pure backgrounds in each scene are a joy to look at. There’s also Merida’s hair, which is just an impressive feat. And at its dramatic core, the first Pixar movie with a female protagonist is a feminist movie. The conflict doesn’t come from a villain or an evil plan, it comes from the differences between Merida and Elinor. I do wish Merida had ultimately been more accepting of her mother’s ways, but it does generally work.
Although the movie’s primary downfall is the finale, a cluster of unnecessary action, plot points quickly being resolved, and a villain who’s absolutely unnecessary in this movie. Whereas most Pixar villains are so great because of their dark reflections of the main character, the villain here feels like he was thrown in for the sake of having a villain. And ultimately, if he had been cut, there would’ve been more time for the actual conflict of the movie to build up. Instead, it ends up as this whirlwind of things happening which I wished could’ve been stretched out over an extra half hour.
Brave is a step up from Cars 2, but it’s a baby step. This isn’t Pixar at pure form, and maybe that’s just the most disappointing part about this.