Brave

After I proclaimed that Brave didn’t look that good back in January, it was a given that I’d have to watch it when it came out. I had hoped that as time went on, the ad campaign would become more clear and that Pixar would deign to grant us an idea of what their movie was actually about. That of course never happened.

Brave is a good enough movie. One reviewer put it quite aptly when she said that “saying that Brave is entertaining but not astonishing is pretty much admitting your straight-A student got a B”, and that, I think, is pretty much that. Pixar regularly blows films out of the water, but with Brave, not so much.

I was a little mistaken in my estimation of the film’s premise, however. It is less about fighting gender stereotypes than I expected, and more about, well, bravery and what it means to be brave. Merida, the film’s protagonist, views bravery as her father does: the willingness to face down any threat without fear. Her father is brave while her mother, she believes, is not, because she doesn’t fight or hunt or kill or shoot. These things, to Merida, are all things that brave people do.  Gender does play some role, but it isn’t the focus of the film — which is nice.

The trouble in the film arises as a gap between Merida and her mother widen: her mother, obviously, expects her to be a princess and get married off, while her father encourages her to shoot things with arrows.  This rift and this broken bond between mother and daughter is what, ostensibly, the film is about. It’s interesting, but because it’s poorly introduced, it really doesn’t hit us with as much impact as it should or could. The lesson we’re left with is really knowing how to say you’re sorry and recognizing power has its various forms: the Queen represents this best when her husband can’t get a crowd to settle down but she can do so just by walking by (and can drag the four most powerful men in the kingdom by their ears). The lesson’s great, but it really doesn’t hit with the impact it should, and this might have something to do with the length: it’s hard to get a meaningful message across in 1.5hrs. There isn’t enough explanation at times, and not enough development, and so it really gets hard to care. We get one flashback scene where we see father, mother, and daughter, but that’s it: it’s hard to really care when we don’t know anything about the characters. If there’s a rift, we need to see it spread… but we don’t.

The film is mostly silly and tough to take seriously. It’s funny, don’t get me wrong, and it’s a wacky kid’s movie and it’s full of laughs. I was laughing out loud a number of times, but not once was I emotionally moved in any other direction — I varied from not too interested to laughing. Visually, it’s absolutely stunning and Merida’s hair glows throughout the film (in addition to looking fairly realistic). The visuals are brilliant and the animation is definitely steps ahead of anything else that Pixar has made. The music and audio effects are great too, with a lot of original music popping in here and there, adding to the film. The voice acting is all great, and none of it sticks out as bad — Kelly MacDonald as Merida, Billy Connoly as (King) Fergus, and Emma Thompson as (Queen) Elinor all stuck out as amazing, in fact, and they all did a very great job.

All in all, Brave is a pretty good movie. It certainly isn’t an Up, nor a Toy Story 3, and not even a Finding Nemo. It doesn’t feel as cheap as Cars, though. It does seem like Pixar tried and you can kind of sense that at some point the development went kind of sideways. I’d recommend watching it for a few good laughs or if you can go on a cheap night — it’s an hour and a half of silly fun. It’s not amazing, and for a kid’s movie it’s only great, but, in Pixar’s defense, you can’t expect gold every single time.

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