Brave has some very lovely and nuanced animation, with the main character Merida’s face really expressing emotions honestly and nicely. Unfortunately, the story is not as nuanced or light-handed as the films Pixar usually turns out.
Here’s a preview:
Released June 22, 2012
Written by Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, and Irene Mecchi
Directed by Brenda Chapam, Mark Andrews, and Steve Purcell
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, and Julie Walters
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Brave follows the story of Merida (Macdonald), a flame-haired, teen Scottish princess whose mother, Elinor, (Thompson) is trying to raise her to be proper, but who would rather forge her own way. When she was a young child, her father, Fergus (Connolly), gave her a bow and now she’s a master archer.
Can you guess where this is going? Yep, Hollywood is trying to make strong characters, and Pixar’s getting in the game, but when Pixar wasn’t trying so hard, Pixar was doing better.
As you guessed, Merida’s mother’s planning takes them to the point where three young heirs to the other clans arrive to vie for Merida’s hand in marriage. Merida beats them all at their game and runs away when her mother flips out. Merida finds a witch ( Walters) who promises to give Merida a spell to change Merida’s mother.
Now here’s an issue. Merida, when she’s with the witch, never asks for a spell to change her mother’s mind. Instead she asks for a spell to change her mother. This is a very fine and very convenient spot on which the major plotline depends. It bothered me, because it’s a cheap way to advance the plot and we all know what Merida wanted– to change her mother’s mind. Why didn’t she say that? So the plot could move forward. I don’t want the characters to mold to the plot that’s been set out, I want the plot to follow proactive characters.
Needless to say, of course the witch gives Merida a less-than-perfect spell which messes everything up and forces Merida to go on an adventure to fix things. So yes, it’s sounding like The Little Mermaid. Unfortunately, like Ariel, Merida breaks the rules, endangers everything, and does she pay any kind of real price? You make the call.
My only critique of Brave is the plot. I think it tells a story we’ve all heard or seen or read before. I think the characters are good; I love the animation; I love the voice-acting; I love the music. I love the accents. Merida’s hair is a joy to look upon.
But the story is old and Brave doesn’t really succeed in creating all that great of a character in Merida. Tangled‘s Rapunzel was a far better character: more complex, more interesting, more of a person. Merida is a hot head and doesn’t want tradition holding her back– and that’s it. Her epiphany about her place in the world is slow coming and is a little bit of a cop-out, despite the fact that I agree with it. Plus, seriously, she’s kind of dumb and I don’t like watching a film where the characters conveniently (for the plot) can’t understand what everyone in the audience can understand.
What’s more, many of the side characters are there for plot and humor convenience; they don’t occupy their own space and have their own story.
Now. Some people deride the decision that Merida makes; that’s the best part of the plot. Her force of will DOES change tradition, but she does not just ABANDON her duty.
Brave is a good, fun film with plenty of laughs, some of them a little too low-hanging fruit-like, and a few good characters. But it’s from Pixar, so it’s disappointing that it’s not better.
Content warnings: some potty humor, some potentially scary images of bears, and some cartoon violence.
Writing: 2.5 Acting: 4.5 Overall: 3.5
Compare my review with those on Rotten Tomatoes, then watch the movie and see for yourself! Also, caring is sharing. So share if you care. Dare to care and share!