“Saying that Brave is entertaining but not astonishing is pretty much admitting your straight-A student got a B.”
-Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post
Brave, the latest offering from animation powerhouse Pixar is a beautifully done fairy tale that relies a little too heavily on its Disney influences. Typically known for their unique style and characters (toys, bugs, monsters, superheroes, cars, fish, rats, robots, and an old man flying in a balloon powered house), Brave almost seems like Pixar playing it safe.
Originally titled The Bear and the Bow, it seems like Brave went through a fairly tumultuous development process to become the film it is today. First conceived by Disney veteran Brenda Chapman(The Prince of Egypt), it was considered somewhat of a milestone as Pixar has never had a female director. However, the film drew criticism for ousting her in favor of writer/storyboarder Mark Andrews (The Incredibles, John Carter) due to creative differences.
The story starts in traditional fairy tale fashion with Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) choosing adventure and fun over stuffy royal traditions like picking a suitor and wearing royal gowns. After an argument with her mother the Queen, the film takes a unique turn involving magic and bears and funny blue creatures called whisps. To say any more would be delving too deep into spoiler territory, even this second-act plot development has been expertly hidden from the marketing of the film.
Brave surely lives up to the animation standards of a typical Pixar film (jaws will drop at Merida’a flowing head of red tangled hair, intricately animated to perfection), however it does suffer from the weakest plot outside of the Cars franchise. It’s tough to hold Pixar up to their own standards because of their near perfect track record, but this film seems almost a trite afterthought when compared to the Toy Story franchise, Wall-E and Up. Still, a less than average movie for Pixar is a very good movie by any other standard and it beats out any recent offering from other animation houses. Fans of great animation and fairy tales will love Brave, but don’t expect the same deep themes and expertly crafted plots of previous Pixar efforts.