Brave

“Brave” is the latest offering from Walt Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios, a company that has created an incredibly strong lineage of animated films including the “Toy Story” films, “Finding Nemo”, “Wall-E”, “Up”, and many others. Which such a proud heritage, the question that everyone wonders first is not so much how good “Brave” is itself, but rather whether it it’s a worthy addition to the Pixar legacy.

The answer? Yes, absolutely. While I don’t feel it’s going to be considered one of Pixar’s best by that many people, I certainly do think they’ve put together another animated effort of extraordinarily high quality, with an abundance of soul.

“Brave”‘s heroine, Merida, is a Scottish princess who has recently reached the age where she’s to be offered in marriage. Of course, this is unconscionable to her… especially seeing as she would much rather hone her archery skills than spend her time learning about what is required of a princess. And yet tradition demands it, and her mother, the Queen, is insistent. Much to Merida’s dismay, a tournament is arranged where the chiefs of the kingdom’s other clans send their first-born to compete for her hand.

Incensed, Merida stands up for herself, instead. She bests all the suitors in the archery competition, insists that she has just won her own hand, and storms off. Her mother is furious with her, and they argue vehemently. Merida flees the castle to the woods, and it’s there she runs across something that will change her destiny. A magic trail of wisps that lead her to a witch’s cabin… There, she’s offered a way to change her mother, and thus her fate.

Of course, Faustian bargains are never what they appear, and the Merida will have to deal with the repercussions of her actions…

“Brave” has all your requisite animated film staples: talking animals, old witches, mischievous little sidekicks, overbearing parents, and menacing villains. There are action set pieces and comedic sequences aplenty. It features a fantastic voice cast that give the characters flavor and vigour. Merida and her parents are voiced wonderfully by Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly, and Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane all provide some comedic relief as the Scottish Lords and lads who are vying for Merida’s hand.

One of the primary things that will keep “Brave” from inclusion in the upper echelon of Pixar films, however, is that many of those other films – and most of their best ones – were completely unique in plot and character. Talking toys, or the monsters that live in your closet. Fish with parental instincts and rats who dreamed of cooking. Who would have thought of a trash collecting robot with a soul? At times those films also contained wonderfully original storylines, such as flying a house away on balloons. I’m not calling “Brave” unoriginal, per se, but it’s certainly has numerous elements that have been well used in the genre, such as the transformative spell that needs to be reversed in a set timeframe lest it become permanent, the witch who lives in the cabin in the woods, and the princess who desperately wants to control her own destiny. When you’re trying to enter the presence of such esteemed company as the best that Pixar has offered, small factors such as that can be a big difference maker.

But the film is impeccably animated (of course), and full of humor, action, and endearing moments. The stroyline will engross you, and there’s little here that I could imagine would disappoint anyone. It’s an extremely enjoyable animated film. At its heart is the struggle between mother and daughter, whose competing desires for the daughters future obscure the most important thing of all. The fact that they love each other very much. And above everything else in this film, that’s the element that I took away from it. This is a story with a strong core relationship, it centers around the mother daughter bond and how frustrating it can be, how powerful it is, and ultimately, how wonderful.

A

As a brief side note, “La Luna”, the animated short preceding “Brave” was charming as hell. I enjoyed it very much, as well.

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46 thoughts on “Brave

  1. Great review. It tells me why its not exactly a Pixar legend, while also telling what is does well and why it warrants the A! I am looking forward to seeing it and who knows It might be the next addition in my recent Best Fairy Tales of the New Millenium list! http://bit.ly/NZN5d2

    • Thank you for the shoulder tap. Nice post!

      Let me know what you think when you do see it, Ric, a lot of people are feeling a little let down I think. So… interested to know your thoughts.

      I thought it was great, but… putting it next to Wall-E or Nemo and such, that’s tough for any movie, you know?

  2. Glad to hear it gets your seal of approval… I was seeing a lot of underwhelmed reviews, and I was wondering what was going on there. Now I think it’s probably just people expecting something different. I’ve been looking forward to Brave since I first saw the trailer; it’s nice to know I can keep looking forward to it.

    I’m not too concerned about the “originality” factor… Pixar certainly has some unique storylines in their work, but it’s not the only factor making them successful, and it’s worth noting their biggest hit, the Toy Story series, really doesn’t have a unique high concept. “Toys come to life when people aren’t looking” has been done at Disney before, with their TV series The Secret Life of Toys, which was based on Jim Henson’s The Christmas Toy (which even had the same “old toy feels displaced by new toy that doesn’t know it’s a toy” factor). Of course, we can also go back further, all the way to the Nutcracker….

    Nah. The more stories I know, the more I think my old English teacher was right when he said there are only a handful of distinct stories. It’s how they go about it, and Pixar always seems to go about it in a very skillful way.

    • Well, if you pull the zoom back far enough, there are only seven stories in the world, supposedly.

      This was a really solid animated effort. But I think when a studio puts out so many high quality offerings – whether its fair or not, the movie will be compared to them. Just like directors build certain reps, or actors, or whatever, once you expect something from them, you’re going to be checking to see if it meets the standard.

      This one doesnt hit THAT height, but I think its more of a case of the standard being extremely lofty and not the movie being subpar in any way.

      • Yeah. Since you’re giving it an A, I’m assuming it hits a pretty good height on its own. But yes, people do start drawing comparisons… and I think in the case of Pixar, since they had a good run where each one wasn’t just good, but received better than the previous, people aren’t just expecting “great” — they’re expecting “significantly greater than the last great”.

  3. I loved this movie. I was at my son’s theater and noticed a lot of little girls going to see it with their parents. I’m glad that there’s a young female role model. The artwork is fantastic and I gave “Brave” a 9. I also think “La Luna” will get nominated for best animated short. It was sooo imaginative.

    • Yeah, La Luna was great.

      Funny you mentioned that about the girls at the theatre. At my showing there was a little girl in a Merida dress, with a bow. LOL. I tweeted a pic of her, it was too cute.

      It is great that they have a character to look up to, sure. And a great Mother/Daughter movie, to boot.

      • Heard a rumor this will be the last princess Disney adds to their roster. There will be no more.

      • Huh. I’ll believe THAT when I see it.

        Even if its true… thats CURRENT Disney management. 20 years from now, That leadership will not be able to resist “Disney’s return to the world of princesses!” and all the accompanying fanfare

  4. It kind of sounds like this is a movie that would probably be much better received if it only had the Disney logo on it, instead of Pixar’s. I guess people have such high expectation from Pixar that something more generic like Brave is disappointing.

    • You’re right, but… I dont know if I would go so far as calling it generic. More traditional might be better? Generic implies, like bland or mediocre to me, somehow…

      I thought it was really good. REALLY very good. But yeah, you’re right, with that Pixar label now comes completely lofty expectations, whether it’s fair or not!

  5. Huge Disney/Pixar fan! I’m kind of interested in Pixar doing a princess movie. Hasn’t happened yet so its nice, brings together the whole Disney and Pixar together even more! I can’t wait to see it (hopefully some time next week).

    • Well, definitely hope you enjoy it, and if you get a chance, circle back and let us know what you thought.

      I liked it a lot, I thought it was really good. I think a lot of backlash out there is just Pixar uber-expectation let down, you know?

      • Cool, Kim. Glad you’re on board with that one.

        I thought it was definitely an excellent flick… I think a lot of critics were just disappointed it wasn’t as original as WallE or Up, but I think if it’s just judged by itself, it’s an excellent flick… :D

        And yeah, La Luna was great, right? So cool!!

  6. fantastic review Fogs. I am glad that you enjoyed this so much. It was a good movie and agreed with a lot you had to say here. It was missing too much Pixar originality as you alluded to, for me. But it still was a pleasant film!

    • Ah! THAT’S why I “Missed” your review. You saw this one early and got your review up early…

      I see how you roll. LOL.

      I’ll check out what you have to say in a bit, but I was like, “I went to T’s today… did he review this one?”

      Definitely a good flick though, I liked it a lot.

  7. I have to disagree. I was really disappointed. =[ I LOVE Pixar and I really wanted to love this movie, but the plot line was just too weird for me to get past and I didn’t like it. I didn’t think it was all what the trailers made it out to be and it kind of lost me from the mid-movie twist on. I was expecting a film about female empowerment, going after your dreams and creating your own destiny. I wanted a princess story with a twist, and I just didn’t think it delivered.

    The animation of course was spectacular. And the story was well-told, I guess I just didn’t like the story they were telling.

    Oh well, I guess I can’t love them all. I’m very excited to see how the prequel to Monsters, Inc. turns out. It should be interesting.

    And I have to agree. La Luna was a wonderful short! I’m so glad that that didn’t disappoint at all!

    • Lots we DO agree on in there though. That Monsters U teaser trailer cracks me up! Making Wazowski a disco ball as a college prank? Hysterical. And then when they kick in the Spandau Ballet? Oh my god. Great great teaser :D

      Plus of course, La Luna… excellent short, right?

      AND I’ll throw in the fact that you’re right, this movie was definitely NOT as advertised. They absolutely played down the Magic interaction element. Absolutely. And further? I can see how it might have upset women who would have wanted more… you know, that’s not where I’m comin’ from with it, but I can definitely see that.

      All that said though? This was a good flick. Not the worlds most original thing ever, not one on par with their absolute best works, but it’s a solid animated effort. Very entertaining, very good story, great animation, good lessons (though maybe not the ones being hoped for)… this one was solid I think.

      • I absolutely see the point. I too went into it psyched for some kick-ass princess action. And for a moment i was disappointed, but what i ended up with was so, so much more. And lets face it Disney has been giving us smart, tough, independent, and well…brave princesses since Ariel. But its been a long time since a movie, especially an animated movie, spoke so powerfully about one of the most intense, tangled, dichotomous relationships in the human experience. I learned a lot, and i was sooooglad i got to see it with my own headstrong, smart-assed, free thinking tomboy.

      • Yeah? I hope she liked it! You’re right, the mother/daughter relationship definitely was front and center. Made, I thought, for a far more meaningful flick than a princess romance, cause everyone has that parental bond, you know?

        Glad you dug it, Deb

  8. Most of what you wrote is in my review as well. I thought that the story was so traditionally Disney, that I was not sure why it was Pixar at all. I did see enough of a variation to justify it’s uniqueness. I also agree with Nicole, the trailers hide the magic element. I did think the female empowerment issue was explored adequately, but what I loved was the resolution of the mother daughter story. Did everyone stay for the stinger? I too loved La Luna.

    • Well, it’s Pixar because Pixar originated it… I’m not 100% sure why they decided to return to something so traditional.

      Ryan McNeil had some interesting thoughts on them taking on the challenge of making a new fairy tale, here http://www.thematinee.ca/brave/ You’re right though Richard, the mother/daughter angle was the best thing about it, I enjoyed that aspect as well.

      I did NOT saty for anything post credits. In fact, that’s really begun to irritate me, now, regardless of what movie it is.

    • Only the Scots accents of Craig Ferguson and Billy Connally are in common. The gritty setting of the Vikings and the Scots are only similar because they are primitive. Girl empowerment and clashing volutes are very different themes. How to Train Your Dragon is a strong film for originality. Brave is more traditional but it is hard to say worse.

    • I definitely prefer HTTYD. That one would have wound up more like a A+.

      There are similiarities in the parental influence area, sure. but the action sequences, etc were way better in dragon.

  9. I hate the painful waits that we have to go through over here for Pixar films. I was lucky when Up was released that I was over your side of the pond, so got to see it “on time”!

    I skimmed over the review, fearful of spoilers, and will give a proper reply once I’ve seen it. IN AUGUST. (If I remember ;)) I did feel more hopeful that you’ve given it an A. I’ve not seen scathing reviews, just rather half hearted ones. So this gives me hope!

    • I had to seperate it from my “Pixar Expectations”. If you take it for what it is, by itself, its a very very well done animated movie.

      If you’re looking for the next Wall-E or something, you’ll probably be let down, but…

      I think that big movies are holding off right now because of the big sporting events over there. The Euro Cup and the Olympics are between now and then right?

      • Yep, that’s why. But I know we always get Pixar films late, if ever at all. I don’t think we ever got a theatrical release of Ratatouille over here because it did so poorly over there.

        I don’t think I have Wall-E expectations. Though I am ridiculously excited as it’s been YEARS since we’ve had an original, NEW, non-sequel Pixar film.

  10. Its so good to see a good review for this movie in the blogosphere, I was starting to feel alone in liking it. I completely agree that it doesn’t quite measure up to Pixar’s sterling standard but I’m in the same boat as you in that I went into the theater not expecting it to be up to the studio’s usual high standard.

    I would have to say that Up and Wall-E are two of my favorite movies of all time, and part of that is how well Pixar manages to communicate complex emotions without even needing words to express them. I definitely felt like Brave had more of that heart in its characters than Cars 2 did and I’m hoping that over the next few movies Pixar can break out of the shackles of “Disneyfication”

    • Oh yeah… Cars 2 was terrible. That was a really horrible movie. We’ve just got to hope that that wa a one time misfire.

      I’m sure that Pixar will be back to completely original feeling stuff soon.

      Meanwhile though, I’ve begun to see a bunch of reviews that essentially sing the same sort of song. Not quite one of Pixar’s legendary movies, but still very solid. And that’s how I feel about it. It’d be hard for Pixar to constantly turn out that Wall E Up Toy Story 3 quality with every picture, so Im forgiving that this one isnt quite that….

  11. Not to repeat myself from my own review, but the tension between Brave‘s pedigree and background is palpable and, frankly, odd, and I think that’s going to be the deciding factor between loving it and enjoying it but finding it disposable. I’m in the former category, as you already have figured out; I think it’s great, and while it’s not going to stand up to the studio’s best work, it doesn’t have to to be worth applauding. (Though maybe years from now we’ll see it differently. Who knows?)

    The animation here is stupendous, though, and if nothing else other studios are going to have to step it up to really match what Pixar is capable of visually.

    • I think it’s great, and while it’s not going to stand up to the studio’s best work, it doesn’t have to to be worth applauding. (Though maybe years from now we’ll see it differently. Who knows?)

      a) Agreed. Very much so

      b) If we do see it differently, I hope at least it does take years, LOL. There’s nothing worse than writing a review and within a week or two you’re already thinking “Waht the hell was I thinking?” LOL

      Cause Ive been there!! :D

      • YES. That’s a painful moment. I actually want to write another Prometheus review to better encapsulate how I feel about the movie, because one review, an essay, and long, numerous discussions from comment threads on neighboring blogs to the CHUD discussion boards do not at all do my feelings on the movie justice.

  12. Great review! I liked this movie a lot, and it is a step in the right direction for Pixar, but I feel like it was very, very safe. I get why they wanted to play it safe, but its a little unfortunate.

    Great job!

    • Yeah, it was on the safer side, there’s no doubt about it. And yeh, definitely, that’s one of the reasons I’m not ready to hail it as a classic or anything.

      But its rock solid, and enjoyable. Glad you liked it too Mark!

      And thanks buddy, appreciate that :D

  13. Just checking back in on this now that I’ve seen it Fogs. Great review man. “An abundance of soul”. You said it right there. It’s a real shame that a lot of people are comparing this with Pixar’s previous outings. I think once the dust settles, this will be appreciated more in time. It’s such a beautiful and stunningly made film.

    • Welllllll… It’s hard NOT to (compare to other Pixars) though, Mark. You know? I mean, these guys were on FIRE. Such a run of great flicks. Now it seems as if they’re coming down to earth a little.

      But it is an excellent flick when judged on its own merits. No doubt. I had a lot of fun with it, I enjoyed it a great deal.

      Thanks for swinging back around and posting up your thoughts! :D

  14. FINALLY!! Someone LIKED BRAVE!!!!! I didn’t hate and its twist was juvenile, but I thought there were some really genuinely funny and waarm-hearted monets in the film even while the plot details to the last hour were very silly and juvenile!! NOT QITE AN A grade, but it’s genuinely entertaining enough for me to receive it a B+ grade!!!

    • There are plenty of people out there who like Brave. I liked it quite a bit, I think it only suffers in comparison to Pixar’s other films, which include some all time classics. So… judged on its own merits, it was a really good film.

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