Saturday, June 23, 2012

BRAVE Review

This is Pixar's first (and probably only ever) princess movie. Rumor has it Disney was the one who wanted the studio to do it. It's still a shame Pixar can't decide for themselves, but nonetheless here we get "Brave" featuring Pixar's very first heroine. It's a ravishing fable that is light, entertaining and just good enough. The problem is that we've come to expect the very best from the studio dishing out the likes of the "Toy Story" trilogy, "Ratatouille" and "WALL-E." They are a prisoner to expectation. Given the task of a princess movie, however, the trio of directors (Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell) give us something lively and fun but also something that feels slightly un-Pixar.

The story encroaches on more conventional and traditional territory we'd expect from parent company Disney. Taking place in the Scottish Highlands, the movie is quite possibly Pixar's most visually impressive to date. The rolling hillsides, rushing waters and vast skies are all part of a gorgeous landscape set to a fittingly Celtic score from Patrick Doyle. We follow princess Merida, a girl raised through old lore of being married off and becoming the next queen, like her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson). With Merida's wild red locks and her bow and arrow skills that will bring to mind Katniss Everdeen, she is a charismatic and spirited heroine voiced expertly by Kelly Macdonald ("Trainspotting," "No Country for Old Men").

Merida constantly talks back to her mother because she desires to decide her own fate. Her father, King Furgus (Bill Connolly), is ambivalent to the matter and is more concerned about seeking revenge on the bear who violently took off his leg. In trying to change her destiny, Merida stumbles upon an old cottage which houses a withered old witch (Julie Walters) under disguise as a wood carver. The witch grants Merida a wish, but the spell is not what Merida expects. How the rest of the journey unfolds, however, is exactly what we expect. The narrative is more predictable than we've come to know from Pixar. There's no surprise or spontaneity apparent. Think back to 2003's "Finding Nemo" for a moment. Could you ever tell where those characters would take us? Exactly. Here, on the other hand, it's obvious.

What it boils down to is a morality lesson on the complicated relationship between mother and daughter. With a handful of touching songs about mending differences and reaching for your dreams, it's charming and warmhearted yet a bit preachy. Combined with this is a lot of irreverent physical comedy, which often makes for a good time. Merida's younger triplet brothers are especially pesky handfuls of mischief. But when three competing clansmen come to offer their sons' hands to Merida, the slapstick brawls grow wearisome.

After the abysmal cash grab and blatant merchandising that was "Cars 2," this latest feature is certainly a step back in the right direction for the studio we've come to love. Still, though, I wish they'd return to their usual ways of giving moviegoers animated adventures brimming with unrivaled originality. "Brave" is good with flickers of being really good, but this is coming from Pixar who otherwise creates masterworks. They're sadly looking more and more like any other animation studio.

No comments:

Post a Comment