Pixar is looking to pick itself up after the tame and harmless Cars 2 with their first fairy tale based feature Brave. While the visuals and the score are magificent, the problem with Brave is that it tries to sell itself as a Pixar film, but the product feels a lot like a Disney one. That said, Brave can hit the right notes at the right time, when it wants to.
Brave is Pixar’s first film that is based on fairy tale themes. The film follows a young princess named Merida, who strives to follow her own path instead of the path that’s laid out by her stringent but caring mother. Being the rebellious – or typical teenager depending on how you look at it – daughter that she is, she argues with her mother about the future, doesn’t listen, and goes as far as publicly disobeying her in front of suitors assembled to win her heart. This results in some disastrous decision making by both parties and during the course of the film it becomes Merida’s job to save her family and the kingdom.
The problem with Brave is that, it is based on the fairy tale stories you read as a child and it follows the rules and guidelines of what needs to be in a fairy tale. The story is rather stale, it is like something you that have already read, and since you have already read the story, you know what’s going to happen. The thing that separates Brave from other Pixar films isn’t the story, the setting, or the characters; it’s the fact that it doesn’t challenge itself to be daring or reach for the impossible.
Other Pixar films strived to be different. Their films have dealt with some dangerous themes, no other animated film even wanted to explore. The toys realizing Andy has grown up and he has to let them go; Carl losing his child due to his Ellie’s miscarriage, and eventually Ellie herself years later; Wall-E going to the ends of the Earth and beyond just to be with the one he loves. With Brave we have a rebellious teenage daughter, who just wants to break away from tradition, it’s a very familiar theme that we see in Disney movies. Though it tries really hard to be like its Pixar predecessors in terms of addressing these themes, Brave really doesn’t challenge the audience emotionally until the third act.
Give it up to the voice cast though, for they are the ones who fuel the film’s fire. Kelly MacDonald provides a strong and convincing Merida. Her youthful and spirited voice was one of the highlights of the movie. Likewise with Billy Connelly who plays as her father King Fergus. Then there is Emma Thompson who provides the voice as the strong but graceful Queen Elinor.
Pixar never holds back on the quality of animation, and in Brave, the crew painted the film with radiant colors of green, stone grey, and cool blue. You could tell that the animators put a lot of time and effort just to get even the most minor details of the film just right. The etchings on the stone carvings, the patterns on the tapestry, all of it feels very real. Obviously there will be a lot of talk about Merida’s hair. Rightfully so, Merida’s hair seems to move so effortlessly, with no restraint or notion that it was created on a computer.
These lack of bright and shiny colors serves as a backdrop to the film’s darker and mature tones. But as much as you like to see these tones come out, they stay somewhere hidden in the shadows of the Scotland forest, never ever to be seen by anyone.
It gets to a point where Brave becomes too predictable and at some point in time one could get the urge to actually leave. But some how the film compels you to stay. There is one instance (and ONLY ONE) in the film when younger audience members might become scared of what they are seeing. But like most young lead female characters, Merida soon adopts the titular characteristic, and not because she is doing so to break tradition, but does so because she accepts and respects the long tradition that her family is built upon.
Brave does provide some more charming and hilarious moments in the film. Merida’s triplet brothers provide the lighter side of the film, with their charmingly hilarious adolescent antics. Stealing cream buns from one of the more vulnerable servants of the castle is delightful to watch. But what happens to them later on in the film is adorable and made me want to see more of them.
Brave is filled with majestic scenery, absolutely wonderful sounds, and fantastic characters. And somewhere within the story lies a deeper more meaningful element, just itching to get out and be a film that touches you at your emotional core. It’s just anchored down by the formulaic fairy tale storytelling.