Film: ‘Brave’; Actors: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly; Director: Mark Andrews; Rating: **1/2
Though it was in development for almost six years, “Brave” only became a familiar title just over six months ago once the trailers began emerging for Pixar’s newest release late last year.
The first trailer looked especially awe-inspiring and promised an epic adventure worth the price of admission. Sadly, as more teaser trailers emerged and critics began releasing their reviews, the grand scale adventure the first trailer promised shrunk down to a disappointing, though still relatively good, family values oriented fairy tale – a good thing for most moviemakers, but a problem for a studio like Pixar.
In the film, Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) feels misunderstood and betrayed by her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), who expects her to be a proper lady and marry one of three suitors.
Angered by her mother’s expectations, Merida sets out in an effort to change her fate, resulting in a classic case of “be careful what you wish for.” As mother and daughter try to work together to fix the mess Merida has created and grow closer in the process, the rest of the film’s plot combines the stories of two other movies: “Freaky Friday” and “Brother Bear.”
In other words, the grand adventure that first trailer promised audiences was pushed aside in favor of predictable shenanigans and mother-daughter bonding. The epic, incredible story many must have hoped for remained in the film only as the briefly mentioned legend of a once united kingdom, a legend which in fact becomes the back-story for the film’s “villain,” a raging black bear named Mordu.
By normal reviewer’s standards, “Brave” is actually not particularly bad. Despite predictable and almost dull writing throughout most of the film, as well as a little too much reliance on gender stereotypes and jokes, the characters feel genuine and are written well enough that the audience cares for them, especially by the end of the film, which will have viewers at the edge of their seats as the main characters fight their way to the happy ending fairy tales always have.
And while the story isn’t what they promised, the visuals are as gorgeous and stunning on-screen as the trailers made them out to be; supposedly Pixar actually changed and rewrote some of its animation code to create the textures and incredible look of the film.
So overall, predictable story and occasional poor writing or not, “Brave” was still sweet, entertaining and enjoyable overall, with a good message about family and listening to those around us – in other words, it feels like a solid Disney movie.
But that’s the problem. “Brave” is not a Disney movie – it’s the product of Pixar, which, while owned by Disney, is a separate production company that the public has always held to a much higher standard.
While Disney may thrive on stereotypical independent princesses, dysfunctional families and predictable plots, audiences expect more from Pixar, which is known for creating beautiful, heart-touching tales people of all ages can adore. It’s especially sad because with just a few tweaks and a shift in focus story wise, this film could have been the epic journey that first trailer promised, and could have been Pixar’s greatest work.
As it is, though, “Brave” is just an average tale about a princess who wants her freedom. It’s cute, it’s even fun at times – but it’s nothing new in today’s world.