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Brave Review

Julian’s Rating: 10/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 8.2/10
(4 reviews total)

Merida, a 10th Century Scottish princess, refuses betrothal, isn’t interested in traditionally ladylike activities, and knows her way with a bow and arrow. If I told you that she was the protagonist of a Disney movie, you might laugh, but rest assured, it’s this princess who leads the way in Disney/Pixar’s Brave.

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Although it’s a quote of less than 10 words, there’s something profound about such a command. Trying to change someone else’s point of view isn’t the right way of doing things, but staying true to your own path and creating your own change for the better will get you far. Other people might even change. Unfortunately for Princess Merida, Gandhi and his famous quote came a few centuries after this movie takes place. As such, she tries to change her fate by changing someone else, but this action lands her and her family in a great heap of trouble, forcing her to save the day.

Pixar captures, enchants, and immerses moviegoers in a cinematic wonderland, and such tradition isn’t ignored in the case of Brave. The plot initially seems to promise a wholly action-oriented story, and the film carries a hefty amount of peril and adventure. But it also has more than enough heart to make this journey worthwhile, and the characters do learn an important lesson along the way. One usually doesn’t go to the movies for didacticism, but it’s written well, not at all heavy-handed, and plays like a genuine coming of age for Princess Merida.

Kelly Macdonald leads Brave’s voice cast as the adventure-seeking princess. She could have easily been a one-dimensional lead with little actual fire to light up her stances against tradition, but with careful attention to detail and Macdonald’s commanding vocal inflections, Princess Merida is an instantly incredible character. Academy Award winner Emma Thompson also puts in some strong work as the well-intentioned yet misunderstanding Queen Elinor, while Billy Connolly flexes both dramatic and comedic muscles as he voices King Fergus.

Along with its impressive narrative and amazing performances, Brave pays very close attention to the visual details of its characters, using them as metaphors to convey key aspects of its story. The frizzy hair of Princess Merida represents her free spirit, and Queen Elinor’s more regal appearance reflects her strict adherence to tradition. Potential husbands of Princess Merida and their fathers look utterly cartoonish, but their appearances point out the tradition of betrothal’s silliness. The film also doesn’t hold any bars with its cinematography.

But that’s enough about the seriousness of Brave. Although you needn’t worry about humor in the film – there’s plenty of it – it’s certainly not what you’d expect from Disney/Pixar. The laughs come more from circumstance and a more traditional place than they do from visual puns. Additionally, the laughter often comes from a more genuine and heartfelt place.

There’s Pixar and those old emotions again. I was almost reduced to tears – as emotional as I am about movies, they hardly ever make me cry – as I saw Princess Merida’s fate unfold during Brave’s conclusion. The film might not be the defiant feminist statement many – including me – expected it to be, but the quality of a film has nothing to do with what you expect from it. What’s more, the film still takes a strong stand against holding to tradition solely for tradition’s sake.

Although Brave presents a setting that resembles realism more than other Disney/Pixar offerings, the sweeping score from Patrick Doyle and original compositions performed by Birdy, Julie Fowlis and Mumford & Sons, reinforce the location, and the film doesn’t fail to capture your heart, mind, and imagination. With a moving story, brilliant voice acting, and wonderfully handled climax, Disney/Pixar’s Brave triumphantly lives up to its title. Rating: 10/10

Steven thought: “For a studio so pristinely viewed by the masses as the cutting edge of animated storytelling to retreat to one of the world’s most ancient forms of storytelling might seem a bit confusing and maybe even disappointing, but PIxar does all that it does so well with Brave, even if the means and ends are all too familiar. Brave receives all the humor, character, heart and visual detail of its Pixar brethren, but the studio’s reputation for innovation is the highest of hurdles. This will lead some to classify the film as one of Pixar’s “lesser” efforts, but it’s an unjust label. Brave offers everything you could want in a fairy tale, plus a Disney princess that puts her predecessors to shame, though in the end a fairy tale is a fairy tale.” Rating: 8.5/10

Sam thought: “Leave it to Pixar to take the tried and true Disney Princess formula and cook up a kids flick that’s reliably satisfying and quietly innovative. Like the best of the Pixar canon, Brave draws you in with a lovingly built world and an accessible premise before loosing beat after beat of emotional payoff, much of which strikes true. Fittingly, Pixar’s the first to make a female-led animated movie centered on a moral more complex and engaging than “girls are good at stuff too.” The relationship static between Merida and her mother is what makes for Brave‘s gooey emotional center. Granted, the largely tame opening act sets up the mother-daughter conflict in a blunt fashion only a few door slams shy of becoming trite, but with the help of a wonderful second-act twist,  Brave‘s true charms are brought out in full effect, chief among them, its stunning visuals. Were it not for all the beautiful Scottish vistas on display, you might spend most of the film transfixed by the shockingly life-like tresses and locks of each character. Although not as emotionally subtle as Up, or endlessly inventive as Toy Story, Brave‘s dizzying technical highs are built on an affecting and effective story of parents and children learning to communicate instead of just talk.” Rating: 8/10

Simon thought: “Pixar’s slide into mediocrity seems to be continuing with Brave, an utterly safe, slapstick-laden fairy tale without much to say about anything we haven’t heard a hundred times before. That’s not to say that the physical humor at play isn’t effective a numerous points, but I don’t seek out fare from this studio for a three stooges-esque diversion. In running about half an hour too short, we never get a feel for these characters as well-rounded human beings (our fire-haired heroine aside), something Pixar has always thrived at even with time limitations (think the opening montage from Up). Obnoxious supporting characters coupled with motivations and reactions way off in left field, Brave is a significant disappointment, which in a way seems even less inspired than the questionably received Cars films.” Rating: 6.5/10

 

Rating
8.2

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