Brave

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Bottom Line: Unless you are a die-hard Pixar fan or a young child, Brave may bore you to sleep with its lack of originality.

Directed by: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews
Starring: Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Kelly Macdonald, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane

Ever since it released its first film in 1995, Pixar has always held a prestigious reputation. When we hear of films like TITANIC and FORREST GUMP, we don’t think, “Oh, that’s a Paramount movie!” Similarly, we don’t usually think of HARRY POTTER or THE DARK KNIGHT as “Warner Bros. movies”. Yet most of the time, when we think of film such as TOY STORY and MONSTERS, INC., we are quick to associate them with Pixar. Furthermore, the vast majority of these films have been very well received, and I agree with much of the praise that has been embellished upon these wonderful films. BRAVE is something different. After seventeen years of strong filmmaking, it seems the group has begun to slack a bit. Yes, young children are quite likely to enjoy it. But when Pixar has a record complete with beauteous productions such as FINDING NEMO and UP, animations that all ages can freely enjoy, it’s difficult to say that the Disney subsidiary put forth as much effort as in previous films.

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The fact that it features Pixar’s first female heroine doesn’t make it a good movie.

BRAVE, set in 10th century Scotland, is the story of young Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald). She lives a happy life, other than the fact that she wants to be seen as her own human being and not the child of her mother, who seems more like a less aggressive drill sergeant than a queen. One day, Merida visits a witch, who puts a curse on her mother, turning her into a bear. From then on, Merida must work on undoing the curse–with the help of her unusual talent with archery–as well as hide the queen from her father, who kills bears.

The problem with this film is the story itself. You could take almost any princess story, preferably by Disney, reimagine it appropriately in medieval Scotland, and churn out this film. With the overly familiar plot, the film becomes predictable and banal. I’ll freely express that I closed my eyes for three-minute intervals multiple times during the last half an hour or so. The film was working not as a source of entertainment, but rather as soothing music, despite a number of scenes that would have been exciting in any other motion picture.

In its technical aspects, BRAVE was a major disappointment, as well. The soundtrack was oddly selected, the musical score didn’t strengthen much, and above all, the film wasn’t one bit beautiful. I have been blown away by what visual achievements Pixar’s features can be. FINDING NEMO and WALL-E are, in fact, two of the most beautiful animations I’ve ever seen. The animation is actually quite near hideous, to be most clear. Not even the handful of landscape views we experience are that grand, which is possibly the saddest of all in this visual failure.

BRAVE tried to amuse far too often. Though it is quite likely that little kids will giggle loudly at this humor, it’s rarely successful for anyone else. I had a smile cracked across my face three or four, maybe five times within these ninety minutes (wow, was it really that ridiculously short?). In short, if you’ve exceeded age nine and you have seen a film centrically involving princesses, you can pass on this, as you probably will not enjoy it very much. Some scenes are worth seeing, but in order to understand what’s going on during them, one must face the commonplace, overstretched story.

Postscript: 1995 was the year that Pixar released their first film, Toy Story. That was also the year when Mel Gibson’s acclaimed Oscar winner Braveheart was released. Not only does Brave share five letters with the title of that film, they are also both set in medieval Scotland. Not sure it matters, especially since one is a tame Disney movie and the other a brutal war movie, but I found it slightly interesting.

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25 thoughts on “Brave

  1. Sorry it took me so long to swing by my friend but I was away for a while and took a break from blogging.
    I appreciate your review man it’s good but as you know, I loved this film. I seemed to think it was all the things you didn’t lol. I was it beautifully done and captured a sense of Scottish humour. The audience at my cinema were roaring with laughter throughout but admittedly some jokes were definitely references that could be missed by a lot of non scots. It was this attention to detail that made me love this all the more. It’s great to hear alternative views as always though. Cheers bud.

    • I didn’t mean for it to be scathing, but if it is, that’s quite fine. I was bored! We went to see this at writing camp on our weekend break and about half the people who attended the movie owned up to the fact that they fell asleep in the theater. I’ve never known so many people to fall asleep in the same movie in the same theater at the same time! I tried to fall asleep, but my mind, unfortunately, was too wide awake. Some called it a good experience. I didn’t hate it, but I wouldn’t even call it that.

  2. You just put a damper in my day… just kidding. I am disappointed with the reviews for this though. It seems Pixar has had a fall from grace wouldn’t you say? Cars 2 and Brave (I think) are just okay little movies that if no one told me it was Pixar I wouldn’t have thought that.

  3. hi, nicely written. i still might watch this, but with very low expectations(after reading here and at Fast Film Reviews) . it might be worthy as a rental or a pay per view at cable. was also curious about your choice of movie posters. although they are nice, clever, and unique, are there any other reasons why you don’t use a picture from the actual movie? cause am updating mine with large pictures found in google images, and theyre quite clear. am satisfied with them, but am wondering if there are any copyright protection rules about taking them from google images.

  4. I agree with a lot of your points but I disagree on your overall score. I am an outspoken fan of everything Pixar has ever done (except for the massive cinematic dump that was Cars 2) so while I thought it wasn’t quite up to par with the studio’s earlier work it was still a respectable film. I completely agree that the story was overly familiar and there was none of the boldness we’re used to with movies like Up and Wall-E, but after a while I just resigned to the fact that it wasn’t making any waves and let myself enjoy their take on it.

    I’d give it a 6 by Pixar Standards but an 8 but other comparable family fare that’s been released recently.

    Also I’m just curious what did you think was poorly done about the animation? I thought it was actually pretty impressive, not groundbreaking of course but certainly not hideous.

  5. Sad to hear it – great review. I was under the impression Pixar could do no wrong, but maybe even the great ones slip a bit from time to time. I think Cars 2 also wasn’t received as well either. This looks like a solid rental.

    • I think Pixar hit its pinnacle, for me, with Wall-E. Maybe I was surprised that the only film that really made me think about how we treat Planet Earth on a daily basis was a film targeted at the family. A runner-up would be Up, followed by Finding Nemo. The former moved me so much, made me laugh, and was so sweet, and the latter is a testament to my early childhood. I still remember seeing it in theaters when it first came out (I was five years old!), and I’m dying to see it later this year when it earns a 3-D rerelease.

      I can’t quite agree that Pixar can do no wrong, actually, but I do love the company. I know it’s just me, but I absolutely hate The Incredibles and Cars. Everything else I’d grant with at least an A (except Brave). Then again, those were well reviewed. I think Brave and the two Cars movies (ESPECIALLY the last one) were the only two that didn’t quite manage to get the critical acclaim Pixar is used to. All the others are up in the 90%s on Rotten Tomatoes, except for the two Toy Storys, which both have 100% marks. I’m dying to see the third of that series; that and Cars 2 (which I’d best be skipping) are the only two I haven’t seen.

      I definitely wouldn’t recommend seeing it in theaters. Many of the people I saw it with fell asleep. I tried, but I’m sensitive to noise, so I couldnt, haha. But since it gets solid reviews (though of course not when compared to the other Pixar films), a DVD rental may be a good idea.

  6. Oh man! I couldn’t disagree more! I absolutely loved it, as did my friend who saw it with me (and we are both definitely older than 9 ;)). Even as we were travelling home, we would say periodically, “man! i can’t believe how good that was!”

    First, i thought it was GORGEOUS. I think i gasped out loud more than once, especially as we “flew” over the landscape. Second, i loved the soundtrack and the music- i thought all the music was very fitting to the setting, time period, and culture.

    Outside of the technical parts, i loved the story itself. I loved that it was a female-centric plot (it really is all about merida and her mother). I love that it didn’t become a love story, except to be a story about love between a daughter and her mother. I love that it was a strong-willed, stubborn girl who does the wrong thing out of anger, but then does everything she can to make it right. Was it perfect? no. But i don’t think it deserves a C-. Does it measure up with some of the other Pixar films? it seems like many would say no. But is it really fair to compare it with every other Pixar film created? I don’t think so. It is it’s own movie and i think it stands up really well on its own. I was captivated for the whole 90 minutes and i’d say about 70% of my audience were adults and it sounded like they enjoyed it just as much as me.

    for me, the bottom line is that little girls who maybe don’t quite fit in, or who maybe don’t feel understood by their mothers, or who maybe aren’t blond and neat will have a great new princess to want to be.

    • I considered giving it a D, but I realized that was far too harsh. Just saying.

      I may be wrong in one way or another, but I actually don’t see harm in comparing it to other Pixar films. We employ “a Pixar film” like we employ “a Martin Scorsese film” (not that the two have any corrolation, of course). So if I can compare Raging Bull to The Departed, why not compare Brave to Wall-E? These films, I’d say, should work on their own, yes, but just as well as a group. So if there’s one disappointing standout in a studio’s career, it’s the same as for a director’s career and vice-versa. And we remember those disappointments and how poorly they stood out, i.e. I’ll probably remember this like I remember Spielberg’s Hook, though maybe not so strongly.

      And there’s more to rant at me for: I’ve seen 11 of the 13 Pixar movies now, the remaining two being Cars 2 and Toy Story 3. Though I barely remember one bit of Toy Story 2, so I don’t know if that validly counts any longer. Also, there’s two of those 11 I’ve seen that I absolutely hate, for whatever reason (and I know I’m in the minority for both): Cars and The Incredibles. I loved the latter when it first came to DVD, when I first saw it, but it grew flat for me very quickly.

  7. I was wondering whether to see this, but after reading the lukewarm reviews decided to stay put. Pixar is at its best when it uses deeply textured and rich characters, like in Toy Story, Up, and Wall-E, and is the reason why I love their films, despite the fact that I’m way older than the target audience. From what I’ve heard, Brave doesn’t have the same charisma as other Pixar films, and I think you were right about it looking to much like an old Disney movie. Nice review.

    • “From what I’ve heard, Brave doesn’t have the same charisma as other Pixar films”
      It’s a pretty accurate statement. It also requires a lot of brain power, sometimes, to decode the Scottish accents. One friend of mine who sat near me during the movie told me she thought she heard me breathing heavily, and so she assumed I was asleep. I wish that were the case (I closed my eyes because I got bored, but I never fell asleep). Had I known this was just a Scottish revival of every princess story I’ve ever heard, I would have passed on it. It’s not a terrible movie, but I wouldn’t at all recommend it to anyone except…well, I said it in the review. 🙂

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