Sunday, June 24, 2012

"It's Always Worse With Bears" My review of Pixar's "Brave"

I love Pixar. Let's just get that out in the open right here and now. Since day one with Toy Story, to their "stumbles" like Cars, and their masterpieces like Wall-E I have followed their work wherever it takes me. I love the simple yet groundbreaking stories they weave and the amazing animation they use to tell them. Just take a look at Toy Story, which was released back in the late 90's and it still can hold up against most animated films distributed today.

Pixar has, by nothing short of a miracle, managed to maintain a soul in the face of the corporate world that film and animation exists in today. It is their defining characteristic, as well as the reason, I believe, why they're so successful. Like anything people do, whether it be crafting stories to serving fast food, it shows when a person has a passion for what their doing. With a studio like, for instance, Dreamworks you can see some passion has indeed been put into the films they've created. However, think about how many Shrek and Madagascar films there are, as well as sad attempts to cash in on Pixar's success (such as Shark Tale to Finding Nemo...). It's just not the same. There's a visible difference between Pixar and Dreamworks films, and I believe it's the heart the Pixar puts into their work that is the reason for this difference.

So it's no surprise that I liked their latest film, "Brave." I've reached the point where simply knowing something's a Pixar film is a promise of instant enjoyment. They have managed to earn that from me after years of impressing me with their work. Brave continues to prove my faith in Pixar isn't misplaced.  It's a great, hilarious, and imaginative fairy tale that never fails to deliver on an emotionally engaging story about a girl and her mother and how they learn to accept one another for who they are and grow as a result.

To start, I'd like to begin by talking about the Pixar short before the movie. The Pixar shorts are one of my favorite aspects about a Pixar film. It's a simple little appetizer to whet my appetite for the feature presentation. In this case, Pixar's short film was called "La Luna." La Luna was a beautiful short about tradition and how traditions evolve from generation to generation. It was clever, imaginative, and I loved every moment of it.  Now, onto the actual film itself.

The story and characters in Brave are everything I've come to expect from a Pixar film. The story is simple, yet tells an original and emotionally engaging story that will make you laugh and pull at your heart strings. The characters feel three dimensional and believable, at least the primary cast does. The most stand out character being Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald). Merida is by far the most interesting, and human, protagonist Pixar has ever presented. She feels like a real person with her own thoughts and feelings yet isn't perfect. She is also selfish but that doesn't make you hate her. You root for her, you understand her problems and feel for her. She is a free, and wild, spirit. This, of course, doesn't sit well with her more reserved and "queenly" mother who is at her wits end with her daughter's insistence on being free to make her own path. This conflict is the heart of the film. As the film continuously has the two women butting heads for what they think is right. Eventually, Merida storms off and discovers a witch in the woods who gives the princess a spell that should "change her mother." Of course, this spell does more than Merida is hoping for and she must find a way to break the curse before it's too late.

It's somewhat standard fare for a fairy tale but that doesn't matter. Pixar manages to make everything feel new and interesting thanks to clever writing and lovable characters. The second primary character of Brave is undoubtedly Merida's mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), who, despite wishing her daughter would be more lady-like and less of a free spirit, doesn't come off as a bitch. That must have been the most difficult thing to pull off because it would've been so easy to make Merida's mother less sympathetic than she is in the movie. Elinor truly believes she is doing what's best for her daughter, she clearly loves her, but you also feel her frustration when Merida is being rebellious. The true root of the conflict between mother and daughter is the fact that neither one understands the other. There is no true antagonist in the movie (apart from a bear that is part of a sub-plot) but if there is one it is the differing perspectives Merida and Elinor have.

There is also Merida's father, King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connolly). King Fergus is probably one of my more favorite characters in the movie. He is a humorous, jovial, king who obviously passed his passion for adventure, and his carefree attitude, to his daughter. Despite the fact that Merida constantly defies her mother's wishes, Fergus simply laughs it off and finds his daughter's free spirit to be endearing. The banter he and Merida share during the archery competitions reflect this really well, as well as shows how he is no help to his wife who scoffs at him every time he enables Merida's behavior. You also have Merida's younger brothers, fiery haired hellions who provide a number of laughs, and the three other clans in the kingdom all of which have their own unique characters who share numerous hilarious scenes together.

I also loved the movie's soundtrack. I've always had a soft spot for bagpipes and Scottish music in general and the film's use of traditional Scottish music as well as the songs sang in Gaelic by singer Julie Fowlis really got to me. Another spectacular aspect of this film is just how beautiful it is. Pixar continues to be the pioneer of computer animation and Brave is definitely a sight to behold. The most notable technological marvel of the movie is Merida's fiery mane. Her meticulously animated locks are one of the most important aspects of the film because represent her fiery spirit. Her hair is an extension of her character as well as her predicament. She desires to be free but her mother insists she be more reserved, this is clearly represented by the rebellious strand of fiery red hair that Merida allows to fall from the confining headdress that is attempting to keep the wild spirit at bay. It's the first thing you notice about Merida and you have to commend the job Pixar did bringing her hair to life.
In fact, you have to commend Pixar on making yet another great film. It's not every day you find a new and original fairy tale full of colorful characters that has an engaging story. There's really nothing bad I can say about the film.

In summary, Brave is another great Pixar film with interesting characters and an interesting plot that doesn't disappoint. I give Pixar's "Brave" 4 arrows out of 5.

1 comment:

  1. The first 30 minutes or so had me pumped up like no other but once that big twist in the story happens, it all goes downhill from there. However, kids will love the heck out of this film and you can’t go wrong with them. Nice review Tom.