Some Brief Thoughts on Pixar’s “Brave”

Who doesn’t love Disney’s Pixar? Between the unbearably cute short films that introduce their larger stories and the delightfully peculiar yet heartwarmingly touching feature-length films, Pixar pretty much has the 3D animation game in a headlock. I’d almost go so far as to call it a monopoly if “How to Train Your Dragon” wasn’t so dang good too! What began with Toy Story has become a dynamo chain of fantastic films that the whole family can enjoy. Our favorites will always vary: maybe it was “Finding Nemo” or “Monsters, Inc.” or the much more recent “Wall-E”, but for me, I think it will always be “Up!”.

The new contender on the block is the recently released “Brave”, toting mythic Scottish overtones and branded as Pixar’s very first fairy tale. I had my hopes up from the first teaser trailer (admittedly partially because I may or may not have a thing for redheads). The main character this time around is a young ginger by the name of Merrida who prefers the freedom of horseback-riding and archery to the suffocating duties expected of her as princess. This developing conflict only gets worse when her mother tries to force her into an arranged marriage. Determined to change her fate, Merrida enlists the help of a wily witch with a bizarre bear obsession to cast a spell. Naturally, things get a little weird and a lot magical; pretty soon Merrida has to risk more than her life to set everything right. Oh, and if you’re afraid of bears, you might want to sit this one out:

“Brave” winds up being a nicely wrapped package at just over an hour-and-a-half in length. And the animation is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Seriously, the musculature on a bear as its coat shimmers in the sunlight is amazing to behold. But the full experience feels like it falls short of Pixar’s usual masterpieces for a number of reasons.

They tried very hard to make it feel like “Brave” was straight out of Scottish folklore. It’s complete with thick accents and the kilts galore, along with a few magical wisps and drumming clansmen. The overall “accent” of the film, as colored by that culture, almost comes off as overbearing and distracting – almost. For me, the saving grace was the music which is some of the best I’ve heard in an animated film. It drags you into the lush scenery with breathy voices and ethereal sounds that are so enchantingly Celtic that you can’t help but get a little bit giddy. It’s beautiful, majestic even.

While many of the characters in “Brave” are insanely charming, none of them feel quite as developed or as well-drawn (pun not intended…but I’ll leave it! haha) as Pixar favorites like Mr. Frederickson or Wall-E. Merrida and her parents, even her triplet younger brothers feel like caricatures of simple archetypes. You’ve got your disgruntled princess, the buffoon of a king, and the overly stern queen.

“Brave” really is a pretty great and entertaining movie, but it’s easy to expect a LOT from Pixar considering their history. As a standalone animated film, I’d recommend “Brave” to anyone, but it lacks the level of insane creativity that makes so many Pixar movies shine. Making a movie about a princess rebelling against her fate is a safe bet. But look at any other Pixar movie and it’s legitimately crazy. Just imagine how that first guy sounded who pitched these ideas:

“Alright so we’ve got a bunch of toys, right? But when nobody’s looking they get up and move around and talk!”

“There’s a lonely robot living in the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Earth…”

“So this old man’s wife dies and then he flies away in his house with a thousand colorful balloons tied to his chimney.”

See what I mean? Pixar movies by definition are usually bizarre almost beyond belief. Right there we’ve basically got two horror movies and one bad acid trip. Pixar thinks outside the box and draws outside the lines, right off the page, and traces crazy swirls all over the dang table with their crayons. And it’s always genius! I mean who would’ve thought we could care so much about a fish trying to find his son? If someone told me that without showing me “Finding Nemo”, I’d call them crazy.

If you haven’t gotten the chance yet, go see “Brave”. You’ll enjoy it for its charm even if it isn’t the best animated film you’ve ever seen.

-C

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