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Criticwatch - Not Brave, No Heart: A Whore By Any Other Name

by Erik Childress

If there has been one collection of films where the term "critic-proof" has certainly applied over the years, it is that of Pixar. The Toy Story trilogy alone would have a perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes if it wasn't for the likes of three critics, including perennial miss-the-boat nutball Armond White. And the list continues with Finding Nemo & Up (98%), The Incredibles (97%), WALL-E & Ratatouille (96%), Monsters Inc. (95%) and A Bug's Life (92%). Considering it is near impossible to get over 200 critics in the same room to agree on anything, that is a pretty remarkable tally. Even the generally derided Cars managed a 74% approval and if it wasn't for them stumbling badly with Cars 2 (38%) last year, Pixar's record would be just about untarnished. Now comes their perceived apology in our eyes - a Scottish adventure tale with their first female lead after a dozen films. Brave could be simply just good and it could be forgiven as a stepping stone from last year's abyss back to greatness; a bit of forgiveness that many critics seem to be justifying their praise with. Motivations and being big ol' softies aside, we cannot imagine any critic trying to make the case that, at best, this is lower grade Pixar for small children. Who would be brave enough to say otherwise? In your heart, you know who.

The list goes through Chicago this time. Not through Mr. Ebert who would never be labeled a Criticwatch whore anyway. Not even through our local junketeer, Dean Richards, who is no doubt still trying to justify John Carter as "the first big blockbuster of the year." Actually, the first quote is closer to Ebert than some may realize.

"Original!" - David Plummer, Windy City Live

Windy City Live is the morning talk show that has replaced that whole Oprah thing here. But David Plummer has been a Chicago staple for decades. His presence in the local screening room has had less to do with him doing movie reviews, but for his role of executive producing movie reviews for Siskel & Ebert. After consulting on the most recent incarnation of At the Movies (not the one with Ben Lyons), David has now become part of his own critic duo with Paige Wiser on WCL. As this appears to be David's first time being quoted ever, we are far from saddling him with the same label bestowed on the others connected with Criticwatch. Though we do have to take him to task for calling the film "original!" Even if that is out of context it wouldn't matter since there is not a character, a subplot or barely an image in the film that could be called "original." Feminine independence, magic potions, spell deadlines, wacky large Scotsmen, scary animal attacks in the forest. This is a tale that decades old before the first pixel was ever conceived at Pixar and if your memory cannot stretch back that far, check out Disney's 2003 foray into old school animation with Brother Bear. Original? We think not.

Thankfully, we now move out of Chicago and giving David a deserved noogie for that one and we get into some very familiar territory.

"Disney and Pixar hit the Bulls-eye." - Justin Craig,

OK, not precisely him persay, but Jesus Christ, really? Brave's Merida is an archer. There's an archery competition where the Bullseye is hit four times. THAT is what you are going with Justin. The quote is dumb-ass bad enough alone. But considering it was already used ad nauseum for The Hunger Games (just look at the search), this is infinitely more pathetic. Plus, we already saw this praise for Katniss back in March:

"Hits the bulls-eye!" (The Hunger Games) - Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News

We're not even going to bother to look how often this was associated with Hawkeye in The Avengers. Instead, we'll just point the arrow at one of our favorite targets.

"Spectacular! Remarkable in every way! Destined to be a classic" - Mark S. Allen

This is Mark S. Allen to the right donning the Carrot Top wig to show that him and Merida are kindred spirits or something. It would be great to see the actual comedian in his next stage show in Vegas take the same wig, put it on a dog turd and call it a piece of shit quote whore trying to be a comedian. Cause he sure as hell ain't a critic. In every way.

"Amazingly entertaining! Remarkable in every way!" (Sin City)
"Enchanting in every way! Diabolically hilarious." (Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events)
"Mesmerizing. A nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat experience that you'll remember forever. Truly great in every way!" (The Ghost Writer)
"One of the best movies in years! Remarkable and award-worthy in every way. Very funny and relentlessly suspenseful!" (Matchstick Men)
"The most explosive cop drama in years. Brilliant in every way." (Pride and Glory)
"Pure genius. Brilliant in every way!" (Megamind)
"A masterpiece! Visually breathtaking and stunning in every way." (The Phantom of the Opera)

Remember the lesson of another Pixar film, Mark? Namely The Incredibles. If everyone is special, than no one is.

"The heart and soul of Rocky and The instant classic." (Real Steel)
"An instant classic." (Flipped)
"An instant classic. The most unique, intense, satisfying film this year!" (Identity)

Well, those films are about as special as Brave, Meet the Robinsons and Speed Racer are "spectacular," according to Allen. At least Mark Shithead showed some minor restraint this time in not crowning Brave with instantaneous status. Maybe in his mind, Brave will somehow years down the road be judged in the same slow-burning praise that finally caught up with films like It's a Wonderful Life, Vertigo and Blade Runner. Or as Shawn Edwards was fond of saying for the same studio eight months apart:

"A stunning masterpiece that is destined to become a timeless classic." (Ray)
"A masterpiece destined to become a timeless classic." (Cinderella Man)

Sorry, we can't resist shaming Shawn Edwards' idiocy. He is the two-time reigning Quote Whore of the Year, you know; an award named after the biggest whore of them all.

"Visual magic. Pixar has outdone itself!" - Peter Travers

Just two weeks ago we were praising the movie studios for keeping Travers' meaningless quotes off their ads more than ever. Well, we spoke too soon as the #1 Peter has managed to be quoted five times since and is back on pace to at least match his total from last year. This is unacceptable. It boggles the mind to see so many people on Twitter actually re-tweet Travers' reviews as if only then have they decided to go see that movie. With all the critics available to you, if you are solely following Peter Travers there is no hope for you.

We already looked at Travers and his use of what's "visual" in that same article when he called Snow White and the Huntsman "a visual marvel." This time it's "visual magic." Who cares? As I said in my own review of Brave, "praising Pixar solely for its expressive imagery is like bestowing an award upon water for being wet." It's the second part of Travers' quote we are most interested in and we would just like to present a small sample of what the Rolling Stone critic has said about Pixar's films over the years.

"A thing of beauty, hugely entertaining and way cool!" (Finding Nemo)
"One of the year's best. It's James Bond, Indiana Jones and the X-Men all rolled into one kick-out-the-jams spectacle." (The Incredibles)
"Downright breathtaking! A class act all the way…Pixar does it again!" (Cars)
"A hilarious and heartfelt wonder! A new miracle in animation from Pixar…Unique and unmissable." (Ratatouille)
"A breathtaking ride. Wonderfully funny and touching…Up works miracles." (Up)
"It's the Pixar touch that makes Cars 2 a winner. Cars 2 is even better than before. This is the real Fast and Furious. A tire-burning blast of action and fun with a beating heart under its hood. You can bet Cars 2 will rev your engines." (Cars 2)

That's a helluva lot to outdo. Don't take other critics' words for it. That's all Travers right there. Two films branded as miracles and even recommendations for the two weakest received Pixar titles. Previous two weakest, that is. Brave, while still hanging onto a Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, looks likely to fall even below the first Cars on the scale though. Seriously though, how do you outclass a MIRACLE? That is God's work - or just an extraordinary coincidence. Even the atheists can agree that Pixar's greatness over the years is no mere coincidence. Good enough for six Oscars for Best Animated Feature. Cars 2 is the only one (of the nine eligible since the 2001 introduction of the category) to not even be nominated. TEN of their twelve titles have ranked over 92% at Rotten Tomatoes. And yet BRAVE outdoes them???

Like the Animated Feature Award, Criticwatch only goes back so far in our database having started the enterprise in 2002. So we went through the ol' Google to look up some of the other things Travers has said about Pixar:

"No movie can be a downer that fills you with pure exhilaration. You leave with a feeling of the rarest kind: that you've just enjoyed a close encounter with an enduring classic.." (WALL-E)

"It's the Pixar animators who keep grown-ups as riveted as the kids with visual marvels that dazzle and delight." (Monsters Inc.)

"...a joy to behold. It hits every button from laughter to tears and lifts you up on waves of visual dazzlement. And you don't need to take a kid along to appreciate it... Tag it as one of the year's best." (Toy Story 3)

We didn't even go looking for the word "visual" we swear. Miracles, classics, year's best. You need some kind of courage to go out on a limb and call the latest one better than them all. Surely, Travers isn't just spouting empty words again and can back up that statement, right? That's what real critics do.

"No one seems to review a Pixar film without comparing it to other Pixar films. OK, Brave isn't The Incredibles or Toy Story. So? It's still a rousing, gorgeously animated good time."

That is what Travers wrote at Rolling Stone to accompany his video segment. Notice what's missing? No mention of Pixar outdoing themselves. Not even a mention of "visual magic." Instead in both video and print, Travers seems to be taking people to task for daring to compare Brave to the rest of the Pixar canon. Citing those who want to know if it's as good as Finding Nemo or WALL-E or The Incredibles, Travers says flat-out...

"No, it's not as good as those, but it's still good. Why isn't that enough for people? But it isn't."

Hardly a backup of the statement that "Pixar has outdone itself." Actually, it's nearly a complete contradiction of it. But why be consistent when you can get your name and your outlet into the ads? Who cares if you actually said it or even mean it? Hooray for Rolling Stone! Three cheers for Peter Travers! You really have outdone yourself, proving you really are no better than Shawn Edwards or Mark S. Allen and its about time people on Twitter and at the studios know that skepticism of their film will follow every time one of them is placed on an ad.

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originally posted: 06/23/12 00:42:47
last updated: 06/23/12 01:08:29
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