For a film of its name, Pixar’s Brave feels positively timid. Though touted as a breakthrough for Pixar and the wider animation industry — it’s the animation studio’s first film co-directed by a woman and to feature a female lead character — Brave is as conventional as a Disney fairy tale.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad movie, even if it is a slightly disappointing one. With its slick visuals, winsome lead character and warm sense of humour, it offers plenty for both adults and children to enjoy. There’s plenty of the Pixar magic in there, though some of the creative daring is missing.
Brave is set in a mythical Scotland of the past, where four warring clans have united under the leadership of King Fergus (a characteristically rambunctious performance from Billy Connolly). The peace of the young nation is threatened when his daughter Merida tries to carve out her own destiny rather than following a tradition that would see her married off to one of the clan lords’ heirs.
Merida’s mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) is determined that Merida follow the path fate has set out for her. In desperation, the headstrong princess seeks help from a witch, which turns out as badly as it normally does in fairy tale stories. It’s much the same template that Disney has used for years in stories about young princesses, witches, curses and animal transformations.
Brave trailer (via YouTube):
Merida, voiced by Scottish actress Kelly McDonald, is a winning creation. With flaming locks and fiery temperament to match, she has an effortless charm about her. Her complex relationship with a mother who seems at first stiff and domineering is deftly handled and provides the film with its rich emotional centre.
There are moments in the fraught mother-daughter relationship that are handled with such tenderness and humour that they almost make up for a plot that seems to wander aimlessly for long stretches of Brave‘s running time. There are some genuinely funny parts in the film — look out for one animal transformation handled with great wit — as well as a few chases to liven it up. Be warned, some of the more violent scenes may scare children.
It goes without saying that Brave‘s visuals are spectacular, with as much richness to the colours and detail to the textures as you’ll find in any other Pixar movie. Sadly, the 3D conversion has the effect of dimming the dark scenes, of which there are plenty. Given that the 3D effects are so low key, it’s probably better to see a 2D print of the film if you can find one.
There are moments where Brave doesn’t feel entirely cohesive. This is perhaps explained by the departure of co-writer and co-director Brenda Chapman halfway through production as a result of creative differences with Pixar. She was replaced by Pixar veteran Mark Andrews. Between them, they have done a capable job, but the film doesn’t have the sort of singular vision of Pixar’s best.
Brave isn’t as memorable or as layered in its storytelling as Toy Story, Wall-E or The Incredibles, but few animated films are. Though not quite the return to form that Pixar fans were hoping for after last year’s abysmal Cars 2, Brave is still worth watching, just to meet its spunky lead character and to take in the rugged beauty of its ancient Scotland. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media