Brave written and directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman (Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, PG, 93 minutes)
Starring Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson.
The Pixar production company did it to themselves. They created a world of high expectations, of high groundbreaking moments one after another characterized by original films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and UP. Parents and adults have loved the cheeky stories which integrate a lovely plot as well as some slightly hidden adult humor. By setting the bar so high, however, they’ve set themselves up for failure. Brave, sadly, is the beginning of the failure.
The Story Unfolds
A traditional Disney storyline is presented in Brave, where a princess, king, queen, and three young princes are a slightly dysfunctional family. Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) is a slightly mannish (not in appearance) princess who was gifted a bow by her dad, King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly), as a young one. She loves archery, fighting, and all things non-princess-y. Her mother, Queen Eleanor (voice of Emma Thompson), is forlorn at her daughter’s tomboy nature, and desperately tries to push her to become the princess she should be, even to the point of betrothal.
Merida has to choose among three possible husbands, one from each of the other clans in Scotland. The three candidates are ill-fitted for the princess to say the least, and Merida runs away on her horse, Angus (which, if memory serves correctly, is actually a type of beef). The blue-lit, magical creatures called wisps lead her to an old woman’s cottage who turns out to be a witch (voice of Julie Walters). Merida begs for a spell that will change Queen Eleanor’s mind on the whole betrothal process, but Merida gets more than she asks for: the Queen turns into a bear, and Merida has only two days to fix it. The problem is that her father has some trust issues with bears, and understandably wants to kill the new bear running about his place of residence.
A Tomboy and a Bear
Most likely, you have an idea of how the movie ends. It’s a pretty standard storyline, really. A Princess is distress, a family wrought with communication issues, a father who is slightly aloof, an overbearing mother, and a large obstacle for the family to overcome. The only slight difference from normal Disney princess movies is that the princess is quite satisfied with not finding her prince charming, and living alone as a honorary boy. Perhaps this says something about our present day culture.
Where my problem lies is that this movie has been done before. Another Disney flick, Brother Bear (2003) is the story of a young Inuit hunter who kills a bear, and is turned into a bear himself. He has to find a way to be changed back in time, or else the curse lasts forever. Sound familiar? My point exactly.
A Very Small Problem
It’s a small problem really. Pixar is known for its deliberately creative story lines, innovating the modern storytelling process with great imagination. This movie is simply formulaic. Pixar is sticking to the tried and true method of storytelling, and this would only be a problem if they hadn’t set the bar too high for themselves.
But, true to Pixar, Brave is picturesque and beautifully done. The hills of Scotland are painted in breathtaking detail, and the cinematography in regards to Merida’s archery is quite enthralling. But, is it a WALL-E, or a Finding Nemo? Not quite.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
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