Movie Review: Brave

I think a major problem with the criticism of Brave is that it unfairly gets compared the rest of Pixar’s brilliance.  If I were to compare Brave to Pixar’s best films, it certainly would seemk shitty.  And as I would right now actually compare it to the rest of Pixar’s stuff, I would wholeheartedly say that Brave is a lesser work from the studio.  But judged on its own…?

Well, on its own it stands as an enjoyable, but entirely predictable movie.  The story is actually pretty lacking in this one.  It lacked the complexity I expected to see, based on trailers and such.  There are only two or three central plot points.  And none of them result in thinking that anything is going to go awry.  Brave plays it pretty safe.  You know from the start that Merida isn’t going to marry anyone, and you know she’s going to come around and change her opinion of her mother, and you know the mother will do the same.  It’s almost schlocky and kind of overbearing (no pun intended), but manages to hide it all pretty well behind a nice package.  Brave is a very well put together film.  It’s short, it gets to the point, and it’s so simple that the visuals can take hold of 75% of your attention.  It almost does a good enough job dazzling the eyes to hide the fact that there is a (ranging from subtle to obvious) family friendly message every 10 minutes.

But those visuals are good.  The animation was top-notch, as expected, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her hair (made from 1500 individually created strands, I read).  I enjoyed all of the character design, even if it was a little “How to Train Your Dragon”-esk.  I especially liked the design on the evil bear.  He was scary and menacing, I’m sure some of the kids in the theater had some nightmares last night.  Everything about the look of the film was pretty great.

Due to time and location I was only able to see a 2D version of it (as in; I was already next to the theater at a certain time, and didn’t want to wait an hour for the 3D version).  There were times when the movie was panning across a vast landscape, and it looked terrible and hurt my eyes.  I’m going to assume that those camera moves looked better in 3D, and I might have missed out on this one.  Oh well.

The pacing was good, and the comedy levels are at a high.  I thought it was appropriately funny, without ever being cheesy or eye-rolling.  I liked the witch’s “automated message system”.

A pretty interesting note would be how they made this into a mother-daughter film, a dynamic not often covered in these kind of movies.  I appreciated what they did with that, but I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as the 13-year-old girls sitting behind us.

I just felt like the whole thing was painfully simple.  Here’s the characters, here’s the issue (marriage), here’s the film’s only source of conflict (the witch’s spell), and then there’s a sappy solution wrapped with a pretty little bow.  There are no complex twists, or unsurprising character developments.  You can guess (successfully) all of the characters’ progression that will occur in the third act before you even finish the first act.  The adventure is about as linear as it gets.  Aside from Merida and her parents, no other characters get much development.  There are comic relief babies, and the big-breasted maid they harass.  There are some wacky, exaggerated dweebs represented as the suitors and their kilted fathers.  It’s all good and fun, so who cares really, I suppose?  But I cared more about the silent cockroach in WALL-E than for most, if not all, of the side characters in Brave.

I definitely would have liked this movie if it was a hand drawn Disney classic that I saw in 1992 when I was 8.  I’m sure my family would own the Brave VHS tape with the oversized Disney plastic case (remember those?).  It’s a nice movie for the family, and it has really good family values.  Sadly in the analogy of comparing myself to the characters in this film, I’m somewhat of a loner and an asshole in my family, so I’d probably most closely resemble the ugly, evil bear that lives by himself in the underground catacombs, eating PB&J and watching Boy Meets World reruns.  Well, I assume that’s what the evil bear did when he wasn’t on-screen, based on personal experience sitting alone in a dark room for days at a time.

So maybe I wasn’t exactly the target audience for Brave.  I’m gathering that the people who like this most are the ones who take in the strong family values as the most important part of the film.  As someone who doesn’t currently need to care about family values, I most appreciated the BEAR FIGHT.  Not to oversimplify my viewing habits as someone who has to have BEAR FIGHTS in a movie like this for it to be good, but I just didn’t get into enough of the other elements for anything to be better than the BEAR FIGHT.  I never teared up, I never got really excited, and I never feared for any of the character’s lives.  It’s a film that didn’t have much of a down note.  And I love a good down note in a children’s film.

Some people will love the shit out of Brave.  As a guy who eats PB&J in the dark while watching Boy Meets World reruns, I can’t speak much for families, but I assume this is a great film to take your family to.  Personally, I just didn’t think it was all that incredible.

6.5 out of 10

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