Monday, June 25, 2012

Brave (2012) - Movie Review

Listen to your Mom!  Sure, she might nag you to keep your elbows off the table and pick up after yourself, but she usually knows best.

Brave is the story or Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a young, fiery Scottish girl that just wants to control her own fate.  She's a bit of tomboy, pursuing things like archery, hunting and exploring the wilderness.  She butts heads with her mother (Emma Thompson) who wants her to be more lady-like, where her father (Billy Connolly) encourages her behavior.

The trouble for Merida starts the day when she must choose a husband between the eldest born sons of three neighboring clans.  The problem is that these guys are nothing to get excited about.  Even though this is tradition and will prevent the clans from fighting, Merida wants none of it and flees.  While in the woods, she happens upon a Witch that promises a spell that will change her Mother's mind and allow Merida to choose her own fate.  As always, this has unexpected consequences and now it's up to her to fix things before it's too late.

As always, Pixar films are a visual treat.  The animation was great and the movie was gorgeous.  Merida's hair is practically a character on it's own.  I didn't get a chance to see this in 3D, so I can't comment on that, but I really don't think it's necessary.  The visuals didn't need the 3D gimmick and I didn't see a lot in the way of things being thrown at you where 3D would have enhanced the experience.

The voice talent was top notch!  Kelly Macdonald as Merida was perfect.  I always enjoy Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson and they are both great as well.  You have other strong actors like Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson and Pixar-regular John Ratzenberger lending their voices to the supporting characters.  One thing that I've always liked about the voice acting in Pixar films is that it's never really distracting.  Even if you recognize the voice, you don't spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out who the voice belongs to.

The only real weakness of the film was the writing.  I felt the characters, particularly their motivations at the beginning of the film, were a little underwritten and needed a little more explanation.  It also lacked the same wit we've come to expect from Pixar films.  I was nervous from the trailers that much of the humor was going to be too childish, but it ended up being more sight gags and slapstick oriented.  While it was amusing, I felt it was very easy and safe. Merida's younger brothers should have been brought in more to provide a jolt of humor. I'm not surprised to see there were four writers (Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman) and with the exception of Irene Mecchi, all shared directing duties as well.  It can work, but I think it hurts a film when you don't have a unified voice in the writing in directing.  It's not that Brave was a mess, it just could have been a bit stronger.  People have such high expectations for Pixar films.

Brave does have all the heart you'd expect though.  Pixar has alwasy excelled at taking a simple concept or story, but adding depth to it.  This time you get a story about an independent young woman growing up, while learning to compromise and bond with her mother.  It's a nice message, and sure, we've seen it before. Maybe I'm a big softie for this kind of story, but Brave had my wiping my eyes a few times.  I have two weaknesses: Scottish music, and stories based around the relationship of a parent and child.  Combine both and you have a recipe for making this grown man cry.

People really seem to be down on Pixar lately for not knocking it out of the park with their recent movies.  While Brave isn't a homerun, a double or triple that drives in a few runs isn't a bad thing either.  Sure, the appeal to this one skews a bit younger than with previous films, but overall, Brave is a great family movie that most everyone can enjoy.  It has gorgeous visuals and animation, great voice acting, plenty of humor and heart and a good message that we can all identify with.  This is a good matinee.

4 out of 5 Death Stars


  1. Good review Erik. It's a beautiful film and isn't a bad film at all, I just couldn't help but think that it was a totally missed opportunity that could have been easily avoided had Pixar decided to take some chances with it's story-telling. Still, kids are going to eat this up (and I guess they already have with numbers like those).

    1. Thanks again, Dan! I do wish the story had a little more wit to it, rather than be so safe and easy. I enjoyed it for it's simplicity.

      You weren't kidding about the numbers either. When I saw it the theater was packed! It's definitely going to have a broad family appeal.