This movie gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5
Everyone is, I’m sure, aware that I am a total Pixar nut. I know every line from Ratatouille. I put on Finding Nemo whenever I’m feeling down, and Up or Toy Story when I’m home sick on the couch (or both). I defer to The Incredibles for superhero archetypes, not Marvel or DC. I still can’t watch Wall-E without going gooey-eyed.
When Cars came out, I knew something was changing. I stayed away from the film after seeing previews. It was obvious that the plot was amateur at best, the characters were caricatured and cartoonish, and despite being a musical, was no-holds-barred on stupid gags and racial/ethnic stereotypes. Eventually I decided I should see it, and was summarily disappointed. Let’s not even talk about the merchandise-rich Cars 2.
After watching the Pixar documentary, I realize now that Pixar as a film studio has done something both dangerous and rare: produced great movie after great movie, slipping only rarely, and even then, only after a half-dozen successes. Since establishing such a stellar reputation for themselves and raising the bar impossibly high, even a mediocre or simply not-great movie could get panned simply for not living up to the standards of Pixar’s previous films.
So it is that Pixar’s newest offering, Brave, is disappointingly average. By Disney or DreamWorks standards, Brave would have been middle-of-the-road: not as good as How to Train Your Dragon or Tangled, but up there–something like Spirit or Megamind. By Pixar standards, Brave is simply… not good enough.
Merida is the princess of a small Scottish kingdom. Though her mother pushes her to be a lady, Merida can’t help loving the unladylike: archery, horseback riding, adventuring–you name it. When the king and queen arrange for a tournament where the three clans will present their eldest sons to Merida in marriage, she is furious. With the help of a witch, Merida uses a spell on her mother to change her opinion about the prospect of marriage and, hopefully, change Merida’s fate.
Naturally, the spell backfires, and all hell breaks loose.
Let me name just a few movies that have the exact same premise as Brave, with a strong female character searching for a way out of an arranged marriage: John Carter, Pocahontas (and by extension, Avatar), Aladdin–I just finished Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns, so perhaps that is why this premise feels so overdone and overly salient to me. Nevertheless, it is spectacularly unoriginal.
Now, Pixar did try to lace this film with some Pixar-trademarked cleverness and script-writing brilliance. The dinner table discussions between Merida’s parents are hilarious. Merida’s spell backfires in a particularly strange and unexpected way–though I can’t say it was ever explained why it backfired the way it did.
Since Up, I’ve noticed Pixar following a very Disney-like trend (and one I’m not necessarily comfortable with): inserting “gag” characters, when they aren’t really critical to the plot. Okay, talking dogs–I went with that for a while. It was a little overdone, but the movie was good enough that Pixar sold it. The three red-headed troublemakers in Brave really did nothing for me. They just reeked of that annoying dragon in Mulan that was voiced by Eddie Murphy.
The ending of Brave was so boring and predictable I could have storyboarded it in my sleep. Sure, the animation was great; the scenery was masterful; the dialogue was, well, okay. But without a decent plot to carry it, these things are meaningless.
In conclusion: Save the $28 bucks to take you and your date to a 3D viewing of Brave. Watch a better Pixar movie at home, and if you’re still hankering to see Brave, wait for it to hit the Red Box.