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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look46.15%
Average: 7.69%
Pretty Bad46.15%
Total Crap: 0%

3 reviews, 8 user ratings

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by Brett Gallman

"Pixar's aim is mostly true."
4 stars

For their first female-centered film, Pixar has seemingly made a calculated attempt to create an anti-princess film, perhaps in an effort to subvert some of their parent company’s canon. They don’t quite bring the full breadth of their magic touch, but “Brave” is still delightful if not a little weightless, which may only be a problem when it’s measured up to the studio’s best work and its lofty goals here.

Set in medieval Scotland, their princess film features a princess who doesn’t want her crown. Instead, Meridia (Kelly Macdonald) would rather frolic through the highlands on her horse and shoot arrows into the sky. Her mother, the queen (Emma Thompson), has spent her entire life grooming her for her betrothal, which is now imminent, much to the princess’s dismay. As a trio of suitors descend upon her castle to win her hand in marriage, she decides to buck tradition and strikes off into the nearby forest.

What happens next has been well-guarded; as is the case with many Pixar films, the marketing has given audiences just enough of the concept while hiding the story details, and I’ll tip-toe around the meat of the story out of respect for that. It’ll have to suffice to say that the film takes a turn towards fairy tale territory, and it gets crossed with a comedy of errors to deliver a rather rote story about familial reconciliation. There’s a rift between Meridia and her mother from the film’s first scene, which sees Meridia receive her first bow from her level but lunkheaded father (Billy Connolly), but there’s ever little doubt that this schism won’t somehow be mended.

As such, “Brave” seems content to effectively montage away its conflict and paint it in broad strokes, only occasionally presenting some genuine poignancy you’ve come to expect from Pixar. In an effort to hastily shuttle audiences to its inevitable conclusion, it skimps a little bit on truly effective, personable moments to make the arc resonate. Some fleeting glimpses emerge in the form of the big beats that would probably hit slightly bigger with a steadier emotional undercurrent, but “Brave” often discards great, small moments in favor of farcical and obvious humor that aims a bit lower than most Pixar fare.

“Brave” feels more incessantly juvenile, as bare asses and other appropriately bawdy humor (when in Scotland…) form a parade of sight gags, some of which--almost all of them involving Merdia’s rambunctious trio of brothers--are even uproarious. The trio of directors have also crafted plenty of action sequences that are sweeping, thrilling, and even a little intense as the film hurtles along at a lightning fast clip. There’s rarely a dull moment, and it’s generally amiable and enjoyable, zestfully scored by Patrick Doyle and injected with lively vocal performances from all involved. Visually, the film is another stunner from Pixar’s animation department, who have rendered a gorgeous world with incredible detail; the dark forest is an especially impressive update of Disney’s enchanted landscapes, and the film’s look reflects its spirited nature.

It’s difficult to deny that spiritedness--like its heroine, “Brave” is feisty and energetic, almost too much so, which proves to be its biggest flaw. The filmmakers have acutely realized Meridia herself and laid the themes bare, but the slightness of it all is hard to shake. Pixar’s first princess steals her own show almost by default, as the lack of distinctive supporting characters (the suitors especially are blank slates ranging from doofuses to dweebs) and mechanical storytelling keep it from transcending its romping, jocular disposition.

That’s perhaps a little disappointing, especially since Meridia is such an indomitably great character. She’s the rare cinematic teenage girl that’s treated as an actual human being; her frustrations and conflicts resonate and feel grounded. At its heart, “Brave” is a teen movie, one that’s brimming with generational schisms and even a little angst about one’s fate. Meridia’s refrain refers to her desire to change her destiny, and the film is juggling a few other mature themes, such as tradition and societal expectations for gender roles (though I found it a little odd that it maneuvers its heroine into a position where she has to knit her way out of trouble).

If only all of it were treated with complete reverence; ultimately, one can’t help but wonder why Pixar chose to go such a juvenile route for a film with such concerns. It’s still a good, pleasant film despite this--I certainly found myself laughing quite a bit, and I was often enthralled by the more breathless sequences. I just also found myself wanting to catch my breath a little bit and settle down with these characters. Since that doesn’t happen consistently, “Brave” ends up being middling Pixar, which is still pretty good.

Expectations and standards are a tricky thing, and Pixar may be their own worst enemy going forward, especially since they hit a tremendous and unbelievable groove that culminated with “Toy Story 3.” As such, something like “Brave” winds up feeling just a bit perfunctory, especially when it has aspirations to be so much more.

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originally posted: 06/22/12 16:56:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2012 Nantucket Film Festival For more in the 2012 Nantucket Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Seattle International Film Festival For more in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/24/19 A Kenai for puns This movie is... unBEARable! (Turns to wink at camera) 3 stars
8/01/13 Suzie Williams Meh, Brave didn't do it for me. Animation was fantastic, but I found it rather boring. 3 stars
2/17/13 Charles Tatum Not so bad, not boring like some Pixar of late. 4 stars
7/24/12 Mick Gillies Interesting mother/daughter relationship. great animation 4 stars
7/21/12 Sean Harrison This may not be Pixar's best movie, but the soundtrack and humor stiill work. 4 stars
6/25/12 Richard I liked the movie, the animation and the main character, Merida, was delightful. 4 stars
6/22/12 Anime Nut My big gripe was the repeated cribbing from Miyazaki's playbook. But in the end, I liked it 4 stars
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  22-Jun-2012 (PG)
  DVD: 13-Nov-2012


  DVD: 13-Nov-2012

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