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Not so Brave after all

June 23, 2012

When I first saw the trailer for Brave I got very interested, very fast.  “Can do no wrong” Pixar, makers of some of my fav films , doing a spunky Scottish female story?  With something mythological going on?  Count me in!

A string of unbroken successes (I didn’t see Cars or Cars 2) and some new directions… Friday afternoon, I went to see what they wrought.

Spoiler alert!

What they wrought, unfortunately, was not very good.  Maybe not even good.  The string has been broken.

Brave is, at its core, a comedy, full of slapstick, decorated with tired puns and cheap tried and true jokes about the Scottish.  It is also, sadly, predictable, disjointed, and full of contrived instances.  Might as near well say deus ex machina too, given that the main plot governor are will-o-wisps, sent to literally guide the characters forward.  (I could give points to Pixar for lampshading some of this by calling one of the clans the MacGuffins, but in this case I think it would be too generous given they’re not actually the plot key)  The movie is also surprisingly violent, full of swords and bears and claws.  Throw in a dash of anachronism gags and voila, a film that is safe in its concept, safe in its execution, and devoid of the unique talents that Pixar has brought to the screen in previous movies.

Not that the film doesn’t have promise in its premise, with the idea that mother and daughter could come to appreciate each other in a grand way and each could learn to lead and grow through each other’s eyes  (starting to sound, ironically, like Brother Bear).  Or that taking the easy way out never works out as you want it to.  Or that slavish adherence to ritual leads to folly.  And it is great that, though they choose to return to the Disney formula of girl heroine must equal princess (really?  why?) at least this time there’s actually an anti-romance plot.  So much could’ve been done there, and so much was not actually done.  A shame.  Even familiar stories can be great when told well, but Brave treads on no new ground and isn’t told well.

Visually, of course, the film is stunning, absolutely stunning.  Merida’s hair is amazing, the wisps are ethereal, the Scottish landscape is gorgeous.  Voice talent is good too.  Music and songs do not detract.   I want to like the characters simply based on their visual strength.  Only that they’re coupled with poor character development and a banal story.   Again, a shame.

I guess, if comparing Brave to many other kids films, Brave is probably better.  But Pixar is not known for making kids films, it’s known for amazing storytelling that often touches us, of all ages, deeply.  Not so here.

As much as I don’t want to because I love Pixar films so much, I rate the film as Poor.  A set of core ideas that could have been great are given little treatment, overshadowed by forced humour and scrambled in a poor story.

Ironically, it is Disney Animation’s next film, Wreck It Ralph, that looks like it could be fantastic.  What a reversal that would be.

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