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.
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.