Monday, June 13, 2016

Movie Review: "Brave" (2012)

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Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell
Year: 2012
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

After having a falling out with her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) over an arranged marriage, Merida (Kelley MacDonald) rides into the forest where she comes across a cabin in the woods. Inside the cabin lives a witch (Julie Walters), who Merida pays to create a spell to change her mother. Unfortunately, the spell changes her into a bear. Now, Merida must find a way to change her mother back before her father finds her bear-mom and kills it.

Disney Pixar's "Brave" tells the story of a young Scottish princess names Merida, voiced by Kelley MacDonald. Much like many of the other princess protagonists from other movies, Merida doesn't like the traditions that come with being a princess, primarily that of arranged marriages. Like Jasmine from Disney's "Aladdin," Merida would like the ability to chose her own husband and thus, her own fate, by not being limited to only a select few princes. She is expected to be delicate and ladylike, but similarly to Disney's "Mulan," her skills are much more suited for fighting than finding a husband. See? We told you there were similarities! Of course, Merida's mother, Queen Elinor, voiced by the incomparable Emma Thompson, believes in tradition and won't allow it. After upstaging all of her male suitors in an archery contest with her Robin Hood-like archery skills, Elinor scolds Merida for shaming her, her family, her would-be husband, and defying her wishes. Merida runs off into the forest where she meets a strange witch who gives her a spell that will change her mother's perspective on the world. As we learned from Disney's "Brother Bear," a good way to change someone's perspective on the world is to turn them into a bear, and that's exactly what happens to Merida's mother. Once she realizes she's made a huge mistake, Merida finds out she only has two short days to undo the curse, or have a bear for a mother for all eternity.

It might be because of the aforementioned similarities, but for some reason, the story of "Brave" doesn't feel very original to us despite it being a brand new tale. Along with these many resemblances, this story also borrows from folklore with the use of will-o'-the-wisps, which are used as guides for Merida in her coming-of-age journey. Speaking of Merida, what a great character! It's not hard to watch this full of life, spunky girl become the woman she discovers she wants to be, even if she has to literally fight to be that person. The voice over work is just tremendous. From Billy Connolly to Emma Thompson, from Craig Ferguson to Julie Walters, there are some big names filling the roster here, all of which work together to create the dynamic, light cast. The soundtrack is also fitting, and BigJ is a big fan of it, but that is likely due to his affinity for Scottish style music.

Being a Pixar film, the animation is quite beautiful, especially when it comes to the vast and lush Scottish landscapes. The bears in the story look amazing, especially when they are allowed to fully act like bears rather than anthropomorphic creatures. At this point, good animation is a given when it comes to Pixar, but we continue to be impressed with the way the animators bring their tales to life in such gorgeous ways. The story is probably what suffers the most about "Brave." It is decent enough and it has a lot of fun moments, but there's just something about it that doesn't quite grip us they way we hoped it would, and we say this knowing our minds haven't been changed upon multiple viewings of it. Adults won't hate watching this and kids won't, either, but it feels more like a filler film that was made to pad Pixar's growing resume in between the really deep-cutting, emotional mega-hits.

Though "Brave" might not be Pixar's best film, it's still a solid attempt with a good message and a fantastic, strong female protagonist. There are many good elements, even if it's not as gripping and emotional as we've come to expect from a Pixar picture.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78%

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