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Movie ReviewsRating: 3 of 5 yaps

Brave

Since “Toy Story” exploded on the scene in 1995 (wow, almost 20 years ago now), Pixar has been largely made of Teflon. 

Everything has received critical and consumer acclaim, raking in truckloads of money and awards alike. Eight nominations and six wins of 11 Best Animated Feature Oscars belong to Pixar, and “Brave” is the studio’s 13th film. That means half of their films were judged as the best of their kind since the award’s inception). Even their missteps are smothered in praise.

Viewed strictly as a film, “Brave” is a weak affair lacking narrative cohesion. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it seems to suffer from the same malady that could have torpedoed “Men in Black III,” but didn’t, for whatever reason: the story was a mishmash of themes and loosely strung-together plot points that takes a strange narrative turn and almost becomes an altogether different movie.

“Brave” follows Merida (voice of Kelly MacDonald), a headstrong, tomboyish Scottish princess spoiled and doted over by her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), and misunderstood by her mother, Elinor (Emma Thompson).

When the king and queen announce that, in keeping with custom, Merida is to be married off to a neighboring clan, she rebels, preferring her carefree life of riding her horse and practicing archery to one of subservience to some dunderheaded clod she’s never even met.

Her hesitance threatens the fragile peace between her clan and the others, and war could break out if she refuses. She does, humiliating her three suitors in an archery competition.

Then a witch turns her mother into a bear, and we forget all about these silly themes of individuality versus tradition and have a good-old-fashioned princess-saves-the-day story, as Merida chases the witch down in an effort to reverse the spell.

Visually, Merida is a great character, with a bright red shock of curly hair that seems to look simultaneously unkempt and meticulously placed; large, striking green eyes; and a somewhat full-figured body type that, while not overweight, doesn’t conform to Barbie stereotypes. She has a rightful place among Disney’s other heroines, if only the movie were worthy of her.

The story is hers and hers alone, and the rest of the cast is supporting characters; Elinor wants her daughter to be more traditional, her father dotes on and is supportive of her, but ignores her at key points when it serves the plot; and she has three little brothers, triplets, who exist strictly to be cute.

But there are a few key ingredients missing. First among them is a villain; ostensibly “Brave” doesn’t have one, at least not a flesh-and-blood character. You could say Elinor is an antagonist to a degree, but there is no direct villain for Merida to overcome. It’s chiefly an internal struggle, which is interesting in theory for a children’s film, but there are some problems in its execution.

Second, there is no real love interest, which is, honestly, a bit refreshing, but is also a little jarring. There are would-be suitors, of course, but they’re all painted as clowns, and the implication is that Merida’s family is more important to her than a life partner or any kind.

There is humor, but it’s mostly of the lazy slapstick variety — people running into walls, up-kilt flashes and things of that sort. There are few, if any, truly clever bits.

“Brave” feels like two fine animated films mashed together, with nary a narrative thread to be had. Yes, there is early conflict between Merida and her parents, but that is quickly dashed when Mom becomes a bear.

Yet Merida’s pluckiness lifts the film, and her brashness, not to mention her skill with a bow and arrow, makes her easily the most entertaining thing about the movie. 

It’s also interesting to see mother-daughter strife as opposed to the more cliched father-daughter arguments, though you could argue the dad is portrayed as stupid and subservient to his wife despite his billowing bluster.

“Brave” seems an odd choice for a title considering Merida’s courage isn’t really tested. Yes, there are intense action sequences and a couple involving bears that are even scary, but she is never forced to confront these challenges alone; her mother is constantly with her, and they are mostly running away from her father and his cronies, who can be dangerous but are largely painted as clumsy, well-meaning oxen.

It’s unfortunate that “Brave” is so schizophrenic. There’s a couple of really memorable movies in there. It just feels like Pixar decided halfway through to stop making one and start the other.

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20 Responses to “Brave”

  1. Hedy Reeves says:

    This movie was going in the right direction, but took a tail spin with an unnecessary plot.

  2. ZACH says:

    I enjoyed the movie Brave, even though i thought for a Pixar movie it was a letdown….2 in a row. But it still was an enjoyable and tugged at the emotions with the mother and daughter connection. Really wish there was more of a central villain in this movie, but the villain was really the "decisions" we make and the affects it can have on us.

  3. Jeremiah says:

    I thought this movie was pretty good. I liked that it was not your typical Disney princess movie. It was not as clever/witty as most Pixar movies and there was not as much humor as there usually tends to be. I would recommend seeing this movie. You should see this movie for the Scottish accents if for nothing else. You really can’t go wrong with the Scots.

  4. Suzette Miller says:

    I was considering taking my kids to see this movie this weekend. However, after reading the mixed reviews I am not sure whether it is worth the high price of 5 movie tickets. Sounds like this will be a prime candidate for Blu-Ray rental.

  5. Rory osborne says:

    can’t say enough good things about this movie, the visual effects were outstanding, and the story line is about future princess who wanted to make her own way in the world and not just following her family’s footsteps of what was expected.in the process of finding her own way in life, she found out what it truly means to be brave.

  6. Chelsea Libby says:

    OK let’s be honest here, if this movie were made by Dreamworks, the critics would be raving about how dark, edgy, clever, and wry this story is. Pixar has become a transcendent household name, an iconic bastion of excellence in storytelling and therefore, when tale does not hit that ridiculously high bar they set for themselves, it is considered a failure. I don’t agree with this assessment. I think Brave, while not accurately titled, is an excellent story of an original and independent female heroine. A role model for young girls, who learns through her journey about the importance of respecting her elders and looking outside your own wants for what those around you need. The story is a little schizophrenic, but the heart, the moral, and the character evolution are right up there with the greatest of Pixar story arcs. That being said, this film is edgier than previous Pixar fare, I took my four year old and she was terrified of the bears and the realistic violence. So be aware that this tale may not be for the very young ones. Overall, it is an enjoyable, beautiful, funny , and clever romp. Even if it isn’t as great as Wall-E or Toy Story.

  7. Michelle H says:

    I did like this movie, BUT I usually LOVE Pixar films. This movie was a little bit to serious for I am used to from them. It did not have as many funny/cute moments as their previous films. I did love the fact that they had a female lead in this movie! Not my favorite, but still worth it.

  8. Nathan says:

    Originally called Bear and the Bow. This was supposed to be Pixars first female directed feature. I think at some point the creative heads came in and said everything was wrong and not working at which point they took Brenda Chapman who was directing after writing the film and placed in Mark Andrews to lead the team in direction. Mark was also part of previous stories but all short format so this was his first long format movie. I haven’t seen the film yet because I’m waiting to see it with my little brother who is currently out of the country. I will hold my comments for the plot until I see it and I’m sure there are some great laughs in there. I just hope that I didn’t see all the laughs already in the trailer.
    As for working on the project I have experience in animation and writing and I know exactly what happens to a project when the original person gets trumped by someone else in directing a piece of entertainment. Like cooks in a kitchen the end product is all about tastes. If you create a nicely seasoned steak and another cook slathers on mayonnaise soup then you’re going to taste the mayonnaise and think this could have been a good meal if I only had a way to scrape off all this mayo. In a similar way all the plot turns and twists can be well written and defined but when other directors and producers come in they want to put in all sorts of things that don’t really move the story forward in the way originally intended. Everyone has their own tastes so I’m sure some will love this movie and some will say it’s not so great. Friends and I have always disagreed on which of the Pixar films have been the great ones.
    I look forward to watching this in theaters soon.

  9. Chris says:

    I thought that this film was funny and charming, but it was definilty not the best Pixar Film. It also felt really short and the ending kind of rushed. I would see it again though! I loved the animation :)

  10. Lana says:

    I thought this movie was very entertaining. It was fun, exciting, and had some happy/sad moments. Great for kids and adults. I recommend this to anyone looking for a cute, feel-good movie. :)

  11. Jon B. says:

    Doesn’t have the "classic" feel to me that a few other Pixar films have nailed. Up, Wall-E, Toy Story 3 just to name a few. I thought it was a bit of a letdown but still wonderful compared to Pixars last outing Cars 2…Although thats not saying much.

  12. Shirley says:

    We went this past weekend and saw the movie. My daughter enjoyed it. She loved the mischief the 3 brothers were doing. I loved the moral of the story. I think I need to take my 12 year old to see it. Everyone should always watch what they wish for, you just might get it.

  13. William says:

    Admittedly, I haven’t been able to see PIXAR’s recent offerings in films – one disadvantage of being dirt poor and having little independence – but based on the press, I think I’m safe in waiting for the DVD on Brave. And I was looking forward to this one too…

  14. kelly H says:

    I saw it with my boys and they both liked it. It was funny and didn’t disappoint

  15. Andrew Doehrman says:

    I was underwhelmed with this film. I expected more from Pixar.

  16. Mikey says:

    Oky, it’s a Pixar movie, I’m going to see it. ‘Nuff said about that.
    One review from a friend said that he was "shocked" that the movie showed some bare bottoms. Really? Can we get over this Puritanical nonsense and deal with our bodies? I’m not saying that we should be showing full frontal in a Disney cartoon,but c’mon! Everyone has a butt! We all do #2 the same way!

  17. Monica says:

    I loved the movie with the strong female lead, who was independent and brave. It had humor and adventure for all ages.

  18. Tanaia says:

    Well we saw it and the kids enjoyed it….just enough humor for them…but not at all pixars best! Cute girl movie….i just used it as a lesson to not treat your mom bad!! Always gotta find a way to used it to my advantage!!

  19. Adam Johnson says:

    I know that Ratatouille also went through a director shuffle, but came out wonderfully intact, due to the evolvement of brilliant director Brad Bird (Iron Giant, The Incredibles).

    I’m still looking forward to Brave, but am going into it with tempered expectations. If it’s as least as good as Disney’s Princess & the Frog (an underrated gem in my opinion) I’ll be more than happy.

  20. Brian2600 says:

    It is my understanding that is what happened- there was a director and their vision (heady), Pixar didn’t care for it and brought in another director halfway through the film (whiz bang type). I could be wrong but that would explain the dichotic feel of 2 movies smushed into 1. Also, I have a 5 year old daughter, so I know I will be able to form my own opinion soon enough…