Movie Review: Brave

Mike Finkelstein wants to be a pretty, pretty princess. He wants all the boys of the kingdom to fawn over him and fight for his hand. Sadly, he soon woke up from his dream and realized he still lived somewhere around New York City…eh well. He’ll just have to live out his thoughts on the movie screen. Here is his review for “Brave”.

Mike Finkelstein wants to be a pretty, pretty princess.  He wants all the boys of the kingdom to fawn over him and fight for his hand.  Sadly, he soon woke up from his dream and realized he still lived somewhere around New York City…eh well.  He’ll just have to live out his thoughts on the movie screen.  Here is his review for “Brave”.

PLOT: Princess Merida (Kelly McDonald) is a Scottish princess determined to find her own way in life.  So when her firm, inflexible mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) tells her that it’s time to pick a suitor from the neighboring three clans to marry, Merida decides that she’ll do anything to “fight for her own hand”.  But when that decision leads her to a witch and her deceptive spells, it’s up to Merida to save her mother, her kingdom, and herself.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Pixar is a name synonymous with excellence.  With ten years of movie memories that include such perfections as the TOY STORY trilogy, FINDING NEMO, and UP, we have grown accustom to seeing films complete with flawlessly shaped stories, loveable characters, and a yearning for our childhood.  So when a movie comes around that may not meet that Pixar standard, even though it may be incredible compared to others, we are nothing short of devastated.

Disney’s BRAVE tells the fairytale story of Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), the rebellious firstborn child to parents, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).  When Queen Elinor reveals that it’s time for Merida to choose a suitor to marry and carry on the kingdom’s legacy, Merida is determined to find a way out and instead choose her own destiny, even if it means using a spell from an evil witch that ends up going horribly wrong…

From the first frame, it is obvious how far Pixar has come in terms of animation.  Within the intro, alone, seeing Merida riding through the forest as she fires her bow from atop her horse is absolutely gorgeous.  Every aspect of the landscape is meticulously detailed, and when it all culminates in her making her way to the top of a crag to drink from the waterfall, the sweeping shot will leave you nothing short of breathless (one of the few short moments when the 3D added to the film….everywhere else, it did nothing besides darken the screen).  And while all the humans are still shaped with their familiar Pixar style, the wilderness animals are completely realistic, and both humans and animals have all the right emotions (or lack thereof) in their eyes at the right moments.

In terms of characters, you could almost say that this is the female version of FINDING NEMO.  Brenda Chapman is the first female director for any Pixar full length film, and with that, brings us the princess and female equivalent of Nemo and Marlin.  Any mother and daughter pair will be able to relate to Merida and Queen Elinor’s testy relationship, and we yet again get a very cute supporting group to back them up, including Merida’s gruff but lovable father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), absolutely adorable little devil brothers who get away with everything, and three very unique father and son pairings who come to court Merida (and bring their kingdom’s entire armies along with them…)

But with all that, what BRAVE lacks is the aspect that makes a Pixar film stand out from the rest: a complete and fully fleshed out story.  Everything that you’ve seen so far in trailers and commercials is contained within the first twenty minutes of the movie, and then, suddenly, any real originality the film held was replaced with a seemingly clichéd fairytale predicament.  Granted, we hit every systematic beat we need to between the introduction of the problem and the resolution, but there were no real events or character development to really push us to that end.  Suddenly, moods changed.  Suddenly, people understood each other.  Suddenly, things just…happened.

Amusingly enough, that huge problem doesn’t even make a bad movie!  Little girls will absolutely love the film because it is the new princess movie that Disney swore they would stop making, and a welcome addition at that.  Mothers will love seeing it with their daughters because it comments on the relationship they already have, or are sure to have in the future.  And hell, even guys will enjoy it because it’s Pixar.  But when you leave the theater, something inside you will be churning when you realize that a special something is still missing, and while what you just watched would have been amazing by any other studio standards (trust me, there have been some crappy kids movies lately!), it was not at the ridiculously high standard that any Pixar movie is now held to.

When thought of as a children’s movie, BRAVE hits the nail right on the head.  It has a fun, relevant story with hilarious, adorable characters, and a team of animators that can beat anyone in the business right now.  But what it lacks is the wonderful story and character development that Pixar has been defined by for almost two decades.  We all dug out our toys after TOY STORY 3.  We sobbed uncontrollably within the first ten minutes of UP.  We hugged our fathers after FINDING NEMO.  I have no doubt we will feel those emotions again soon.  This time, however, I’ll smile, nod, and throw this one in the pile next to DESPICABLE ME and KUNG FU PANDA.

GRADE: B+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) STUNNING VISUALS: Pixar has come such a long way over the past two decades.  When you see Merida riding through the forest and climbing that crag, it is nothing short of breathtaking.  I tip my hat.

2) THREE LITTLE BROTHERS: These three are the equivalent of HAPPY FEET’s baby penguins, or the minions in DESPICABLE ME.  They are absolutely adorable and always ready with the perfect moment to make us giggle.

3) BEAUTIFUL MOTHER/DAUGHTER STORY: The female version of FINDING NEMO, mothers and daughters will have a great time together as they see their own relationship in Merida and Queen Elinor.  A must see for any pair…get ready to bond.

4) SUPPORTING CHARACTERS: From King Fergus to the three suitors and their fathers and the evil witch, all the supporting characters bring the funny, and give us another great batch to remember for years to come.

5) LA LUNA: This short film is absolutely spectacular.  Picking up the baton from “Day & Night” before TOY STORY 3, we have yet another beautiful, emotional short that is breathtaking both in its vision of family, as well as its visuals.  This one is a new peak of perfection in the world of Pixar shorts.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) 3D: Besides the first scene of Merida riding through the forest (stunning), the 3D was absolutely useless.  It just made the screen darker and harder to see, and with such robust colors filling the screen, I’d rather sacrifice the depth for the imagery.

2) PLOT DEVELOPMENT: The first half hour may have been on the right track, but somewhere along the line, the plot development seemed to disappear.  Plot points were hit because they had to be hit, not because the characters got there.

3) NOT A PIXAR MOVIE: Pixar seems to be the golden standard of animation.  To be a Pixar movie says a lot about your film.  While BRAVE was an excellent film by any other standards, a Pixar movie it was not.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) The Pizza Planet truck, which can be spotted in every Pixar movie except THE INCREDIBLES, can be spotted in the Witch’s Hut.

2) The first Pixar film to have two directors, as well as a female director.  Brenda Chapman left the film in the middle of production, due to creative differences…I wonder how the film would have turned out if she had stayed…

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