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an animated film directed by Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews

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Perhaps Not Pixar's Finest, Bust Certainly not UnBEARable

  • Jan 2, 2014
To animated film students and CG geeks in general, the geniuses responsible for the Pixar classics we know and love have become something of celebrities themselves.  John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, these are the cornerstones of the Pixar ideology so when you encounter a feature film boasting the Pixar name; it seems odd when such names are absent.  Yet such is the case with Brave, Pixar’s 2012 big budget action film that spent 6-years in development at a cost of $185-mil.

Though it wasn’t overly apparent at the time, looking back 2012’s Brave finds itself smack dab in the middle of a Disney animated heroine resonance (2010 saw Rapunzel take center stage in Tangled and 2013’s Frozen centers on Elsa, princess of Arendelle).  And, despite nearly a century’s worth of Disney experience with leading ladies (think all the 2D princesses throughout the years), Brave actually represents Pixar’s first attempt with the concept.  How did they do you ask? The answer depends heavily upon who you ask.

Critics weren’t overly generous with the film during its theatrical run, many going as far as to say that it continued in the lackluster tradition of the Pixar piece that preceded it: Cars 2.  It doesn’t take much to realize that a lot of such criticism stems from the simple fact that Pixar has managed to raise the bar so ridiculously high in the 17-years’ worth of releases separating the first Toy Story from Brave.  Were such criticisms justified with Brave?  Not entirely but let’s first take a look at the plot summary.

Set in 10th century Scotland, we follow along on the exploits of one princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a redhead tomboy whose regal lifestyle is forever jeopardized when she receives a bow as an early birthday gift.  With aspirations of becoming the best archer in the kingdom replacing those of becoming the best possible wife in a parentally arranged (and politically-driven) marriage, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is forced to watch helplessly as her rebellious daughter mounts her steed and flees into the wilds.  Here the strangely underdeveloped will-o-the-wisps lead her to the cottage of a witch just itching to cast some spells.

Of course if there’s one thing we can take away from all Disney films it’s that witches should definitely be one’s last resort when it comes to the concept of problem-solving and Brave isn’t about to break this tradition.  In fact, rather than grant Merida’s wish with w a spell that could change her mother’s mind about the whole marriage situation, the spell in question actually changes the queen into a bear!  Strange as this sounds, Merida’s lovable but brain-cell limited father King Fergus (Billy Connolly) just so happens to have lost his leg in bear attack in the prologue; and hence is not the world’s biggest fan of the creatures accordingly.

The king (and much of the village) are bent on slaughtering the bear, unaware that it is in fact their wife and queen respectively.  What results from this point forth is a lot of slapstick as bear Elinor knocks haphazardly about in structures and rooms too small for her newfound girth and does her best to communicate while remorseful Merida endeavors to reverse the spell.

If this all sounds rather un-Pixar-like; that’s probably because it is.  In action the film definitely feels more like something we’ve come to expect from DreamWorks; which is to say entertaining, humorous, solid, and pretty.  However, until now, Pixar has separated itself from the competition with unrivaled cleverness.  It has been their concepts of observing and capturing the nuances of adult life and spinning them around a kid-friendly prose:  In short, something for all ages.  Brave however is a bit more forthright with its delivery and underlying message.  The humor beats certainly harken back to How to Train your Dragon with the brawling, uncouth behavior of the Scottish clans-folk (particularly the overly proportioned King Fergus, who is eerily reminiscent of Dragons’ Stoic).

The visuals however are stunning.  Just when you think computer generated imagery has reached its peak, Pixar goes and develops a brand new hair simulator program that required 1,500 individual curl strands to be strung through with a flexible core not unlike the string of a beaded necklace, that allows the scarlet coils to bounce and brush against one another without unwinding.  The misty and green Scottish landscapes are lush and unbelievably intricate with rendered textures and elemental effects that positively dazzle.  Factor in a Patrick Doyle score and Julie Fowlis’ Gaelic soundtrack and the environment almost makes up for what the depth in story lack… almost.

All in all Brave remains an entertaining 93-minutes with enough gusto to keep the little ones glued to the screen while adults marvel at the near-photorealistic textures laced throughout.  Had this one come from any of the other animation studios in the world, it most certainly would have earned unanimous praise.  Perhaps Pajib’s Agent Bedhead said it best in his June 22, 2012 review of the film: “Brave is a pretty good movie. In fact, for a Dreamworks or Sony movie, it's outstanding. However, relative to the Pixar brand, Brave is merely OK.” 
Perhaps Not Pixar's Finest, Bust Certainly not UnBEARable Perhaps Not Pixar's Finest, Bust Certainly not UnBEARable Perhaps Not Pixar's Finest, Bust Certainly not UnBEARable

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January 07
Another one I really enjoyed but I have only watched it once, I need to bust it open again.
More Brave (2012 film) reviews
review by . June 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Change Your Fate....Be Brave!
I have never been a huge fan of Pixar’s films. I liked them, but I’ve never exactly loved them; save for a select few such as “Ratatouille”, “The Incredibles”, “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 3”, most of their movies weren’t exactly for me. With their somewhat disappointing box-office take with “Cars 2”, I thought perhaps that Pixar may be slowing down. Well, sometimes, a little disappointment can make filmmakers go back to …
review by . July 12, 2012
By the end of this latest in an unbroken line of Pixar instant classics, you will have no doubt. From beginning to end, Brave displays the intelligence, honesty, and unflinching forthrightness that I think is the signature characteristic that makes Pixar movies both indelibly memorable and watchably funny and smart.      While Merida, the famously and fabulously red-headed coming-of-age princess, is the central character, I was drawn to her loving but overpowering queen mum as …
review by . July 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Generally speaking, Pixar movies are usually fantastic movies.  They're not movies that are just "good."  They're often great.  Really great and they often stand out because of their fantastic and heartwarming stories.  Brave marks a slight departure for Pixar as it goes against many of their typical formulas but that's okay.  It's what will eventually make Brave stand out more so than other Pixar movies.  That being said, Brave isn't quite …
review by . June 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         After taking a slight misstep last summer with the amusing but superficial Cars 2, the creative teams at Disney/Pixar have thoroughly redeemed themselves. Brave is an absolute joy – a seamless blend of spectacular animation, intelligent writing, and tremendous heart and imagination. Although its status as a 3D computer animated film modernizes it from a technical standpoint, its values are firmly rooted in the glory days of traditional cel …
review by . June 17, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
B for Brave
BRAVE Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman Written by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman and Irene Mecchi Voices by Kelly McDonald, Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly   Princess Merida: If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?   Not surprisingly in the least, Pixar’s 13th animated feature, BRAVE, is breathtaking from the very beginning. The sprawling Scottish highlands are already beautiful in their natural state but when Pixar uses their imagination …
Quick Tip by . September 08, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Y-A-W-N .......   Sorry, saw it in the afternoon and it didn't do much for me! Blame it on the lack of coffee!
review by . June 22, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
  Pixar has been one of the most brilliantly run studios in Hollywood for some time.  They churned out movie after movie which grossed them over 100 million dollars, sold more in toys, garnered critical acclaim, and won awards.   Their last endeavor Cars 2 was the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record.  It seemed that everyone who worked there was passionate about their projects and wanted to be there. The only complaint really being that it was considered …
Quick Tip by . June 22, 2012
The digital wizards at Pixar have an incredible dossier of Academy award-winning animated films. Their latest film "Brave", is a prime example of the bold new direction for the company behind such classics as "Finding Nemo", "Toy Story", "The Incredible's", and "Monsters, Inc." just to name a few. This time out Scotland provides the setting for the animation masters to weave their magic, and they do in a splendid 3-D feast of sight, sound, and color that captures the breathtaking beauty of the Scottish …
Quick Tip by . June 17, 2012
Anyone looking for more insight into Pixar's 13th animated feature, should check out my interview with director, Mark Andrews at ...    http://www.blacksheepreviews.blogspot.ca/201...views-mark-andrews.html    Thanks for reading, as always!
About the reviewer

Ranked #14
Jason Rider (AKA OneNeo on Amazon.com) is the author of the successful children's fantasy novel series The Uncommon Adventures of Tucker O'Doyle from Bellissima Publishing.      … more
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About this movie



Genre: Adventure, Animation, Family
Release Date: June 22, 2012
MPAA Rating: G
Studio: pixar animation
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"B for Brave"
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