What She said:
So here’s the $64,000 question, “Can Pixar do no wrong?”
We’ve got Toy Story, WALL-E, Up, Finding Nemo—clearly this
studio knows what it’s doing. Their reputation is not just
for visually spectacular CG animation, it’s also for rich and
vibrant story-telling. Pixar’s films have masterfully
written plots with a tight narrative, sharp humor, and secondary
themes that are impactful. So, back to the $64,000
question—this answer, it seems, is no.
That’s not to say that Brave is all wrong. Even
with its weaknesses, it’s still not a bad movie. But it fails
to capture the brilliance for which Pixar has forged its
reputation. Let me lay out the basic premise: Merida is an
adolescent Scottish princess, who is as wild as her crazy Medusa
hair. Her mother, Queen Elinor, has been painstakingly trying
to tame Merida for years, preparing her for her destiny, to be a
trophy wife whose marriage holds the kingdom together.
Meanwhile, King Fergus does little to help Elinor’s cause.
He’s a brute who wholly believes in roughhousing and barbarism, by
the looks of it no different from any other Scottish male.
Stubborn Merida wants to create a new future for herself, one
that’s filled with excitement and doesn’t involve marrying a rival
clan heir, but her reckless ways threaten to bring war upon her
people. To compound things, she’s set loose a spell that is
causing more harm than good.
Ok, so that’s my vague description of the plot. Now, on to
the real spoilers, which I’m not going to hold back on. If
you don’t want to read them, then know that despite its flaws, I
generally enjoyed this movie and am giving it a “thumbs mostly
up.” For those who want some spoilers, let’s proceed.
As Brave develops, it becomes apparent that this movie
isn’t so much about Merida’s being forced to marry as it is about
her relationship with her mom. This notion is quite
touching—you’ll get the Finding Nemo chill. But
things between Merida and Elinor never become that genuine.
You see, Merida cops out of facing her problems head-on, and like
the teenager she is, tries to take the easy way out, which in this
case means that she gets a spell made to change her mother.
And it works. But it doesn’t change her mother into anything
but a bear. That’s right, she changes her mother into a
This is where, for me, the film becomes slightly derailed.
The kids will love the people turning into bears stuff, but it
cheapens the developing relationship between Merida and
Elinor. I am convinced that they could have grown closer
without Elinor turning big and hairy, and the end result would have
been more meaningful. The spell has a timeline set on it, and
so you immediately know that things are going to have to be
reconciled cleanly in a short amount of time. That ruins the
complexity of what is supposedly happening between Merida and her
Merida and Elinor are the only two characters in the movie with
any real substance. Even the King is little more than an
oaf. Because of this, you’ll find yourself caring exclusively
about those two, and consider most of the others as just hogging
screen time. The movie starts off bright and funny.
The comedy early on is very good. It will stale somewhat as
the film proceeds, as certain jokes become repetitive. Again,
this will bother adults more than the children.
In the end, things turn out alright, as we know that they will,
and both Merida and her mother become better people. You’ll
feel pretty good about it, but not quite as fulfilled as you have
from other Pixar flicks. The voice acting in Brave is
compelling—gotta love a Scottish accent—but it doesn’t do enough to
fix a narrative that’s not as strong as it needs to be. This
movie is not bad, but it doesn’t live up to the high standards
assigned to it.
Thumbs mostly up.
What he said:
I remember when I saw the first trailer for Brave. It was just a
little teaser, but boy did it look good. The trailer didn’t really
tell you a whole lot about the movie, but it looked like it had a
real sense of adventure to it. Then a saw a few more – like this one – and was hooked.
Brave is about a young princess named Merida (Kelly
Macdonald). She has big, wild, bright red hair and the personality
to match it. She is reaching the age where she is expected to marry
and being the princess all of the other clans are competing for her
affection. The only problem is Merida is a spunky and independent
gal. She wants no part of an arranged marriage and plans to break
Her mother, Queen Elinor, will have none of this. She is a
traditionalist and the one wearing the
pants in the family. Despite Merida’s protests, her mother makes
sure she minds her Ps and Qs. Merida is more interest in shooting
her bow and practicing sword fighting, but her mom wants her to
behave like a lady and find a suitor.
Though certainly not anything new, the dynamic between the two
characters was certainly strong enough to make the movie work.
Watching these two strong-willed Scottish women duking it out may
have been a little stereotypical, but it was certainly
entertaining. Everything comes to a head when Merida decides to
upstage her potential suitors. She breaks out her bow and arrow and
blows everyone away with her superior archery skills. Declaring
herself the winner, she says she gets to choose her path.
This leads to the inevitable argument, Merida flees the
castle, and gets herself into some trouble that sets up the
Like I said before, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, but
I was digging it. But the whole middle chunk of this movie takes
something of a nosedive. The drama between her and her mother
didn’t have the same emotion to it. Even the jokes weren’t as funny
during the middle of the film. Was there some kind of production
issue that forced someone to take over for a few weeks and hand it
back to the original writer/director at the end?
Because once the final act or two started to approach, I felt
the movie coming to life again. I enjoyed the final conflict and
felt like the emotion that was there earlier in the movie came
back. If this movie had stayed on track it would have been a lot
Rating: Thumbs half up.
This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on June