Brave Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG Release Date: June 22, 2012
PLOT: A young princess (Macdonald) who is talented at archery, runs away from her castle to avoid being fixed up with a young man from one of the neighboring clans. To get her nagging mother out of the picture, she gets one wish from a witch, but it goes horribly wrong.
WHO'S IT FOR? A lot of people are going to see this, and there's little point in stopping them. Yet while some might like Brave simply for its character focus, even the most staunch of Pixar fans should brace for disappointment.
EXPECTATIONS: More so than certain filmmakers, Pixar Animation Studios is a film entity that comes with its own bar of high expectations. Though their films certainly are their own expressions, they still have a lot to live up to. How would Brave, the studio's first period piece and female-driven story fare?
Kelly Macdonald as Merida: Aside from her archery skills, she's another teenage princess who needs to learn about responsibility for one's actions. Too easily she can be lumped in with her new tiara-wearing peers. This isn't even one young adult we want to grow with; instead, we want her to stop acting so ridiculous (spell-ridden cakes? That's a bit much). In the end, though her appearance in this movie comes with the right intentions, Merida will probably be most remembered simply for her presence in a boys club of animation movies. Score: 5
Emma Thompson as Elinor: She's a stern matriarch who is just trying to follow the rules (and obey the way she was likely raised, as well). This character becomes slightly more enjoyable when a spell turns her in to an animal, but such a transformation makes for cheap humor more than a meaningful lesson. Brave gets a large kick out of watching Thompson's formerly human character clumsily stumble around her own castle. Score: 5
Billy Connolly as Fergus: Connolly makes this father kind of funny, but he's still a lovable oaf driven by his simple male instincts. And unfortunately, so are the other men of the story, which Fergus is literally the king of. Score: 4
TALKING: Brave hopes that its wisdom strikes like magic, but instead it thuds. Lessons taught in the movie are clumsy, especially when Merida tells the clan men about unity, through a tired charade gag between her and her mother. Dialogue reaches its most ineffective at the worst time — the expected speech between Merida and her mother at the climax is too cheesy to ever be taken seriously. Score: 4
SIGHTS: The 3D is simply not necessary. A movie that takes place often in dark forests and uses so much nighttime does not need the dimming of 3D on top. Aside from the incredibly realistic detail it gives to all types of hair in this movie, the visual strength of Brave is in its presentation of landscape. The film never hesitates to use a sweeping helicopter-like shot of the Scottish territory it has so lovingly recreated. Score: 8
SOUNDS: The three songs chosen to spruce up montages in Brave don't sound Scottish, instead it's like a folksier version of American country. The rest of the Brave soundtrack is filled with Celtic-sounding music, which certainly features bagpipes, etc. Score: 6
BEST SCENE: The moment in which Merida's arrow breaks the bullseye is magnificent, with gorgeous slow motion in tact.
ENDING: This is one character uniting speech that just didn't do it for me. Let's just say that I wasn't sad to see this movie go.
QUESTIONS: It's nice that Pixar finally gave us a female lead, but was there no other way than making another princess character? Outside of the scary demon bear, does this movie soften itself up because it is "aiming" for a different demographic? How is Merida so good at archery if she's only allowed to do non-princess things on select days?
REWATCHABILITY: No, thanks. The story doesn't run at any type of speed that makes a second viewing sound speedy, or rewarding. Being disappointed once by this lackluster addition to the Pixar filmography is enough.
With the animation studio's legacy created by involving experiences like Up, Wall-E, and Toy Story 3, Pixar movies have become about the power of feeling something from a story. These films are adored for their craft, but also for how they interact emotionally with their audience. Enter Brave, the latest addition to a filmography that is too soft in comparison to others, especially considering their other films have turned adults into children for two hours (Toy Story 3).
While the film is certainly well-made, the story of Brave is one that never involves the audience. There's never a moment in which you feel the emotions that are aimed for within this movie, there's never a moment in which it feels particularly clever, or full of the witty spirit that elevated Brave's predecessors. With Brave, there's simply never a moment in which it ever feels great.
It certainly says something about Brave that even its main character might be more memorable for her hair color and "first-time female" presence more than anything related to her personality. The film's attempt to lay new land for animated female leads with Merida still has a long way to go — especially as this movie backtracks to the cuter, simpler elements that used to immediately separate Pixar Animation films from the rest of the bunch.
FINAL SCORE: 5/10