Friday, June 21, 2013

Review: Pixar's "Brave" is Brave, But Not Bold

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 43 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Brave (2012)
Running time: 100 minutes (1 hour, 40 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some scary action and rude humor
DIRECTORS: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman with Steve Purcell
WRITERS: Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, and Irene Mecchi with Michael Arndt; from a story by Brenda Chapman
PRODUCER: Katherine Sarafian
EDITOR: Nicholas C. Smith
COMPOSER: Patrick Doyle
Academy Award winner


Starring: (voices) Kelly Mcdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Sally Kinghorn, Eilidh Fraser, Peigi Barker, Steven Cree, Steve Purcell, Callum O’Neill, Patrick Doyle, and John Ratzenberger

Brave is a 2012 computer-animated, fairy tale film from Pixar Animation Studios. Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, Brave won the Academy Award for “Best Animated Feature” (February 2013), making its co-director, Brenda Chapman, the first female director to win an Oscar in that category. The film was executive produced by three of Pixar’s biggest creative voices: John Lasseter, Pete Docter, and Andrew Stanton.

Brave centers on a defiant princess who must fight a curse she brings upon her family. As Pixar films go, Brave is second-tier and not on the level of such films as Toy Story 2, Wall-E, or Up. It is a good movie, but nothing I would call great. In fact, I would not have voted Brave the best animated feature Oscar over a film like ParaNorman and Madgascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (which was not nominated).

In Scotland of old, Princess Merida (Kelly Mcdonald) is the 16-year-old daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) of the Clan Dun Broch (Dunbroch). Merida’s mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), wants what is best for both the kingdom and her daughter. Thus, the Queen clashes with the rebellious and free-spirited Merida who wants to make her own path in life. Skilled at horse-riding and with a bow, Merida does not want to be a lady.

One day, Elinor informs Merida that she must be betrothed to one of her father, King Fergus’ allied clans. Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson), Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), and Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane) arrive with their first-born sons. These sons will compete in the Highland Games for Merida’s hand in marriage. Merida balks, however, and runs away. Desperate to find her own fate, she makes a deal that unwittingly hurts her family. Now, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.

The first half-hour of Brave is an awkward attempt to introduce characters, themes, plot, and setting, with wheezy music making that awkward even more annoying. The first half hour is the usual raucous, kid-friendly, action-comedy material, which is a Disney trait of turning every family in its films into a nuclear family-like unit. It sort of knocked me for a loop, because it seemed to me that in Brave, Pixar had made its first film that could be described as typical Disney animation product.

It is not until Merida’s second encounter with the will-o’-the-wisps and her meeting with The Witch (Julie Walters) that Brave becomes what it is supposed to be, a fairy tale. When it focuses on Merida’s quest, the magical elements, and the mother-daughter relationship, Brave is at its best. Merida’s younger brothers, the identical triplets: Hamish, Harris, and Hubert are excellent comic relief, but are woefully underutilized.

Everything else about this movie is not really special. The animation is good, although some of the characters bounce like Muppets when they walk or run. The animation’s colors are spectacular, especially Merida’s gloriously red hair and the rich greens of the forests and countryside.

You might be surprised at how deeply Brave digs into the mother-daughter relationship; that brought tears to my eyes. Still, the movie misses the mark of perfection. Brave is mostly a great fairy tale, but partly a Disney-movie-by-committee. That’s a shame, and that is not an Oscar winner (or shouldn’t be).

7 of 10

2013 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)

2013 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Animated Film” (Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)

2013 Golden Globes, USA: 1 win: “Best Animated Film”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


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