Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Brave (2012)

While overall well reviewed, Brave (Pixar's 13th feature) was given the critical shoulder shrug last year after its release that seemed to say it wasn't bad, but so much more was expected. This is probably a good reason that it has taken me so long to actually watch it since most Pixar films I see immediately on the big screen; I also have a daughter who wasn't even quite a year old when the film came out so I didn't really think she would appreciate it too much at the time. She seemed mesmerized (or as much as a 19 month old can) as we watched this the other night, and I have to say for the most part I was as well.

It's not at the top of the Pixar pile by any means. For the record, The Incredibles, Monster's Inc., and the first Toy Story are my big three. However it's not anywhere close to the bottom: Cars, Cars 2, Up (I wasn't a fan). I'd put it slightly above A Bug's Life or Toy Story 2 and slightly below Ratatouille and Toy Story 3. In the grand scheme of things, the ordering doesn't seem to matter much; year in and year out Pixar continues to amaze me at the quality of their work even Up and the Cars films despite all the problems I had with them.

Brave does something very unique in the field of animation, at least the films I've seen. The focus of the film is almost solely on the relationship between a mother and daughter. The idea that it was Pixar's first film with a female lead was a big marketing point last year during the pre-release buzz, but I heard nary a mention of the parental focus that the film would follow. In fact, I knew absolutely nothing about the film's storyline other than it involved a Scottish lass who liked to shoot a bow and arrow. All I ever saw was the film's first teaser.

And the storyline is a unique one; for those that haven't seen it there will be minor spoilers ahead so you've been warned. The witch's curse was by no means a new avenue, but turning the mom into a bear most definitely was. I will admit the film suffers from a bit of "sitcomy" garbage - why would she not go to her father immediately - but having the typical Pixar charm and creativity in abundance helps guide the film through these murky waters.

I read after watching the film many reviews that stated the film's swift change in direction really pulled them out of the film and made the experience less enjoyable. I disagree 100%. I was a little worried that after the bow and arrow incident the film seemed to be going in the direction of just having Merida (voice of Kelly McDonald) simply defy her mother (voiced by Emma Thompson) in a series of challenges and eventually they would reach some sort of compromise. Instead, that basic theme might be present throughout the rest of the picture but the route they take to get there is so much more engaging.

This is a pretty straightforward story and I guess it really doesn't have a particular hook like a lot of Pixar films do nor does it really convey any kind of great or deep message other than maybe you should listen to your mom and under no circumstance give her a cursed desert. That really didn't bother me though since there is absolutely nothing wrong with just telling an entertaining story for the sake of it if it's well done, and Brave most certainly is just that. I will say the lack of a main villain was an interesting choice; the witch actually doesn't seem half bad and disappears almost as soon as the curse is placed, and there is another bear that pops up for a final fight, but I wouldn't call either of these character's a Big Bad. Not all Pixar films have major villains, but this film seemed to call for one and didn't deliver, but to be honest I didn't even think about it till the film was over.

Well worth checking out if you haven't yet. This will show me for listening to reviewers or still having a bad taste from Cars 2 left in my mouth a year later. I won't be making the same mistake this summer with Monsters University.

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