It’s almost like a national cinematic holiday. Heck, call it a global cinematic holiday… Pixar Studios has released a new film! I’m no cinematic historian or anything, but I do believe that Pixar’s cinematic streak of critical / financial / artistic excellence has to be something like the business has never seen. And I don’t care what anybody wants to say about the ‘Cars’ movies because I loved them both. No doubt, this streak of excellence continues with Pixar / Disney’s latest film ‘Brave’, it’s just that… well… of the dozen or so movies Pixar has produced over the last fifteen years, I’d probably put Brave at number 12. That’s all.
Merida (voiced by Kelly McDonald) is like any other wild red-headed sixteen year old girl with the exception that she’s pretty mean with a bow and arrow and she’s a Celtic Princess. The bow and arrow brings her much joy, the princess part… not so much. Apparently if you are born a princess there’s protocol, expectations and eventually an arranged marriage. Knowing Merida like we do, opinionated if you want to be kind, disrespectful if you want to be honest, she’s not on board with the princess plan.
Her mom Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is desperately attempting to prepare her daughter for her destiny, teaching her the ways of a lady, with little help from her husband King Fergus (Billy Connolly) who would much rather regale tales of his missing leg at the hands of a wicked bear, but Merida only craves adventure.
Then one afternoon after a particularly disastrous event, this event being the competition of suitors for Merida’s hand in which Merida acted out a bit, which ultimately led to quite the row between mother and daughter. This leads to Merida riding off in an anguished huff on Angus, the most beautifully rendered CGI horse you will ever see, and ultimately stumbling upon a witch (Julie Waters). Now this witch isn’t wicked or anything, just trying to get by, so when Merida offers her a nice little bauble to create a spell to change her mother, the witch takes the offer.
Having spells casts upon ones mother is probably never a good idea, but Merida, who we’ve already determined is a little bit on the disrespectful side, does just this and it does change her mother. I don’t believe this is the change Merida had in mind, but change is change. Because of these changes in Queen Elinor, mad adventures will ensue, mother and daughter will be spending a lot of time together in ways they never have before, each desperately trying to protect the other on these mad adventures they are having, but time is running out. When the second sunset occurs, these changes in Queen Elinor will become permanent. And more mad adventures shall ensue.
Okay… to say that ‘Brave’ is Pixar’s worst movie to date rings a little bit hollow even though it is, in my humble opinion, completely true. I’m of the mind that Pixar’s previous worst movie was ‘Monsters Inc’ which was still a good movie, but something has to be at the bottom of the list. In fact, let’s not even use the word ‘worst’ and just call ‘Brave’ Pixar / Disney’s least best movie, because it is still a good movie. But because of who they are, fairly or unfairly, ‘good’ kind of equates to ‘disappointing'.
The artistry behind what these geniuses at Pixar are able to accomplish is still second to none. The animation is amazing, the detail that went into the creation of this world we will be spending the next ninety or so minutes in is completely immersive, the voice acting is superb as per usual and the script is sharp and witty. For the most part at least.
However, I think I can pinpoint, at least for me personally, why ‘Brave’ didn’t elevate itself to the levels of entertainment of the films that came before it. For one, Merida wasn’t all that endearing of a character. We admire that the writers created this independent minded young woman as a lead character, but they also made her brash, disrespectful, manipulative and only at the bitter end did the young woman finally accept responsibility for her actions. Merida also has triplet younger brothers who are even worse, but they were designed for comic effect. Thing is… bratty kids just don’t make me laugh. I’m on record for this so there’s not much I can do about that.
Another issue is that this story, which is uncommonly rudimentary, is lacking a true villain which I think would’ve helped deflect a lot of Merida’s distasteful behavior. ‘Finding Nemo’ also didn’t have a villain but ‘Finding Nemo’ had characters which almost made me cry, if I did that at movies. Which I don’t. Because, you know, I’m a man and stuff. But because of this lack of a viable villain, the truth of the matter, in the final analysis… Merida is the villain. That’s our heroine. And that big bear in the end was really scary. In the theater I was at, little kids were cowering in fear at the sight of that thing. Which was actually kind of funny.
All that being said ‘Brave’ is still a good movie, it’s just Pixar’s least best movie. Something has to be at the bottom of the list.