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Brave

an animated film directed by Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews

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Are You Brave Enough

  • Jul 17, 2012
Rating:
+4
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 as "great" as other Pixar movies before it.  It feels as though there's something missing from this one.  A lot of other Pixar movies like Wall-E, Ratatouille and Toy Story 3 were so ridiculously heartfelt and touching that they transcend a lot of animated fare just by being what they are.  They're movies with heartfelt characters, big dilemmas and powerful themes.  And while I won't say Brave lacks those things, it is missing a slight emotional pull.

What separates Brave from other Pixar movies should be pretty obvious.  This is the first time that Pixar has had a main female character.  Not a strong woman in a supporting role like Mrs. Incredible or a sassy woman like Jessie but an actual female protagonist.  In short the movie is actually about her.  This is pushed even further by making the central theme about the relationship she has with her mother.  This may not seem like a strange turn.  After all Pixar has done movies about talking toys, monsters, cars, a rat chef, a robot, a superhero family, talking bugs, and an old man floating away in a house and a fish trying to find his son.  These are things that are usually a little whacky and zany.  Here Pixar goes for something very different than all those things.  In the first place the actual human interaction is important more so.  And while it certainly doesn't forsake any sort of zaniness it is most definitely the most "human" of Pixar's film in a way that most other Pixar films don't have.  They have human and personified things but for the most part opt to get you to pay attention to the non-human characters or elements (the exception mostly being The Incredibles and Up).  In Toy Story it's obvious.  In Cars it's obvious.  But movies such as Ratatouille it's about Remmy the rat.  Not the chef himself.  In Wall-E it's not about the humans, it's about a cute robot falling in love with another cute robot. 

Brave, on the other hand primarily centers on the human element in a way Pixar hasn't before.  In fact, given their reputation... Brave is actually pretty "different" from what Pixar has usually done.  And it's different because this one opts for a more "fairy tale" like feel to it.  This means there are going to be a lot of people who are going to put it at the bottom of their Pixar list because well... it's certainly not going to feel as daring as other Pixar outings (which strangely is what makes this a daring film in and of itself).  It definitely sets itself apart from the crowd.

Princess Merida is a girl who wants adventure and excitement.  Yes, she's a typical tomboy in film.  She's also the first actual "princess" that Pixar has ever had.  And because she's a Princess living in a world wrapped up in tradition she's expected to be a Princess by everyone.  This includes her mother who is hellbent on upholding tradition.  Merida, however, does not care for such things and would rather not have to be forced to do something she doesn't want to do.  And yes, it's pretty typical and cliche, but the idea that Pixar has avoided cliches is about as stupid as saying no film maker ever ripped off another film maker.  It's typical fair where Merida has a fight with her mother.  Where she's an adolescent that just wants to be heard and just wants her mom to listen to her.  Tradition dictates that one of the leaders of the Kingdom's must submit their son and she must accept one of them as an heir.  Something she obviously doesn't want to do because that doesn't guarantee her the freedom to make her own choices.  A trope that's been done to death, but you know, I don't care about that. 

Where Brave really goes fairy tale is when Merida has a fight with her mother, storms off only to follow these "wisp" that lead her to a witch who lets her have a chance at changing her fate.  After concocting a spell and making a pastry, Merida gives to her Mom who is bestowed with a curse.  And in typical fairy tale fashion, Merida has only a day or two to break this curse and the witch who gave her the spell is gone. Merida and her mother must then find a way to break the curse through nothing more than a riddle left by the witch.  And through this they both begin to understand one another and learn from one another.

It's that last part that really makes Brave good.  The building of a bond between a mother and her daughter.  A lot of people have asked why the movie is called "Brave."  It's explained at the very end (and it's not really a spoiler) but the gist of it is that the mother and daughter are stubborn and don't see eye to eye.  It's not that they learn to accept each others point of view, it's that they both forced to learn something about themselves.  The title "Brave" refers to whether or not they are brave enough to challenge themselves (and to some degree, tradition).  To dig deep down inside themselves and overcome their own weaknesses.  In a way that seems like a cop out of a title, but it suffices when one actually sits down and watches.  There are many moments when the characters must be brave because of the adversity they face. 

It is the characters that make the movie interesting.  Particularly Merida and her mother.  And while they are, indeed formulaic characters within their situation at least the movie spends a hell of a lot of time focusing on them and not taking too much time to focus on the other male characters.  In fact, they're all mostly reduced to comic roles that are actually much more stereotypical than their female counterparts.  Case in point, every male here is something of a lumbering barbarian or idiot.  No male here is really heroic or anything like that.  Every man here is portrayed as more or less an overgrown child.  It makes for great comedic fodder, but it also means that even a character such as Merida's father just isn't all that interesting.  You'll laugh at them, but there is nothing here that will make you care about them.  Even their charms don't last.  Which may be the only major problem with Brave is that it isn't as interested in getting you to know or care much for their supporting cast.

And Brave is a good movie, but there is one point where it's just not as adventurous as you might think or that it will have as many trials as you might think.  The movie isn't really all that "exciting."  It's definitely dramatic, but this is also what keeps it from having the same emotional pull.  The ending is sure to fill your heart with warmth, but if Merida and her mother face any real dangers it's not exactly there.  The audience doesn't really feel THAT part.  But you do feel the vibe between Merida and her mother which makes the movie very good in the end.  As I said before, a lot of people expect a Pixar movie to be "great" and not just "good."  And Brave fits into the category of, "It's good."  This does not mean, however, that the movie is "bad," as so many seem to think.  It just means that Brave has a chance to reach incredibly high and never really does. 

That's not to say it doesn't have moments that touch greatness.  Every Pixar movie seems to have that moment that touches greatness because there's a moment where it just really connects with its audience.  In Ratatouille, it's the moment when Anton Ego writes his review for the restaurant.  in Toy Story 3 it's EVERYTHING in the last twenty minutes.  In Up it's the first ten minutes of the movie.  In Brave it is definitely the end which will fill you with warmth and joy.  It's such a powerful and touching moment that it's hard to ignore.  It's not quite the reach that Toy Story 3 is (could any Pixar movie take that big of an emotional leap ever again?) but it shows that Pixar can still tug.  It's just that much of the movie isn't nearly as exciting as the others before it.  And a lot of it just seems to come from the fact this is Pixar's way of "playing it safe."  It's very different for Pixar, a studio that has actually taken a lot of risk and daring to be different from typical family fair.  Not just talking cars or a fish swimming all over the ocean to find his son or anything like that.  But actually daring to tell a much simpler story than what it's audience is used to (and Pixar tells A LOT of simple stories as it is).  This is how Pixar plays it safe and I'm certain some of this undoubtedly done as a means to grab that audience that was pretty disappointed in Cars 2.  The good news is that it works.  The bad news is that Brave will be unfairly forgotten in the long run because of it.  It's just too much of a "typical" story for Pixar that it sometimes comes across as an animated film that could've been pumped out by any studio.  Which is sad because it's actually a good film overall with two very endearing characters.

Go see Brave.  It's a good movie that's got two great characters.  As simple as it may be, it's still enjoyable.  Even if it doesn't reach Pixar's highest peak.

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April 19, 2013
I wasn't a big fan of this film. I mean it was okay I guess, but as compared to gems like Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and Toy Story, this was just a decent film to me. Still a good write up.
 
July 19, 2012
I agree with Bill on this one.
 
July 17, 2012
I was wondering if you were going to review this. You know I am not exactly a Pixar fan (I admit that I liked several of their movies) and I never had that much love for all of their films. "Brave" was surprising for me, not just because of the reasons you have described but also because it abandoned what the studio had done for a long time. I agree, most of their stories can be heartwarming, (Brave is no different) but there are times that the Pixar formula started to get rather thin, that I began to be able know what the movie was going to be about even before I saw it. Pixar had several exceptions to this rule for me, and I am happy to say that Brave was one of those pleasant exemptions to how I saw Pixar movies. Very nice review, well done.
 
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More Brave (2012 film) reviews
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review by . June 17, 2012
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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
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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
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Quick Tip by . June 22, 2012
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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
Sean A. Rhodes ()
I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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Genre: Adventure, Animation, Family
Release Date: June 22, 2012
MPAA Rating: G
Studio: pixar animation
First to Review

"B for Brave"
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