Brave marks a lot of firsts for Pixar. It’s their first fairy tale, it’s their first film directed by a woman (first animated film in general directed by a woman) and it’s their first film with a female lead.
So it’s unfortunate that it doesn’t match up to some of their best work. That isn’t to say the movie is terrible, that would be a crime. It’s an enjoyable film with some excellent sequences that’s ultimately let down by the story.
It follows Merida, a spunky little girl who wants to do things her way. Her mother wants to get her married to someone to ensure alliances are kept and royal things are royal. Merida doesn’t want any of this, she just wants to live her life and be free and do her archery thing.
Merida gets royally pissed (get it? She’s a princess) and finds a witch to change her fate. Of course, nothing is as it seems in a fairy tale and things go kooky for a while. There’s actually a lot of kook in Brave. The film is filled with some light and funny moments that’ll have you laughing.
Although the evidence of three directors is apparent as the tone will switch easily in a completely different direction. For a movie intended for kids, there’s quite a lot of bare ass, knives and dark moments. In fact, the first female animated film director was replaced halfway through the movie.
And I’ve got to say: this movie is gorgeous. There are moments where you’re wondering if Pixar went off and shot a live action film. Some of the shots are just marvelous. Merida’s hair is particularly impressive, as is her horse. Yes, I’m admiring a horse in a Pixar movie. It’s all just very easy to look at, which definitely helps the film in some of its slower moments.
The main problem with Brave is that the story isn’t tight enough. It doesn’t drag necessarily, but it’s like wearing loose clothing. You can feel air just puffing it all up once in a while. This is mostly evident in the middle portion of the film, when the conflict is introduced.
The first half is pretty breezy and definitely entertaining, then it gets all loose and woozy then it tightens back up near the end and whirls to a finish. It’s not bad enough where you start to hate the movie, it just keeps it from being great. It’s especially more evident when you realize there’s no love interest and no villain.
It also plays out like an homage to Disney’s classic animated features. It’s got all the same ingredients (or, mostly): songs, princess, witch, animals, magic, breaking a spell. Except it doesn’t have the magic or drive some of them do, even when compared to recent Disney efforts like The Princess and the Frog and Tangled.
But again, it’s not bad. It’s just a case of a great studio churning out something merely good rather than great. Brave is essentially a movie about changing your fate. Unfortunately, the fate for Brave may be people remembering it as a solid effort rather than something as magical as Wall-E, Up, Toy Story or Finding Nemo. That’s certainly saying something for the track record of Pixar.