Brave Review

Brave, Pixar’s latest box office extravaganza, is masterfully animated and the voice acting is, as always, top notch, but I found that the film is safe and mediocre in the worst sense of those words. It takes no risks and oversteps no boundaries and is therefore imminently forgettable. In fact, movies not bad enough to verbally crucify and not good enough to canonize are generally difficult to review because I can’t bring myself to get worked up about them one way or the other. Basically what I’m saying is that Brave is an insignificant little crab scuttling unnoticed along the grey shores of indifference.

Like a great number of other people, I began watching Brave not knowing anything about the plot, and as the film progressed, began to wonder if I had sauntered into the wrong theater by mistake. I was prepared for an epic coming of age story set amid warring kingdoms in a romanticized depiction of the Scottish Highlands. What I got, however, was something entirely different. Indeed, the film was unique in that it simultaneously surprised a lot of people and surprised no one at all. Allow me to explain.

The characters are generally likeable and in the grand tradition of Pixar animation, often unbearably cute. In addition, many teenagers will find Merida’s, our protagonist,  relationship with her overbearing mother all too relatable which helps to add an element of humanity to the film. Billy Connolly, in addition, does an admirable job as the voice of King Fergus and infuses the film with a kind of vitality that it would have otherwise sorely lacked. Don’t get me wrong, all of the above areas are where the film really shined, but at the same time they were unsurprising simply because we as an audience expected all of those things from a studio as experienced as Pixar, especially after they showed us that they could deliver the goods in the form of a glittering gold nugget that we call Toy Story 3.

The aspect of the film that did surprise people was the plot, and I believe that it was fumbled enough to bring down an otherwise rich cast of characters and interesting locale. The trailer, much to its credit in fact, leaked little to no information about the plotline. As a result I was both pleased that the film threw me a curve ball and disappointed that the magical elements seemed clumsily handled and almost contrived.  What’s more, Pixar seems to be going a little overboard on the whole “storytelling without words” concept and relies heavily, especially in the second act, on visual gags. I believe the film would have benefited from a more complex interaction between Merida and her ‘altered’ mother than the grunts and roars that constitute a large portion of the dialogue. Also, an interesting commentary on the moral implications of the good of the self vs. the good of the community was ripe for the plucking had the writers cared to explore it beyond something akin to “it’s your duty, Merida!” I felt let down by the abrupt transition between the bitchy Queen to the nurturing and understanding Queen, especially since there was virtually no dialogue to show that a change in her thought process had taken place. But now I’m just critiquing minutia.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that Brave is a bad film. In fact, I think it’s a decent film which disappoints me because it could have been so much better. My hope is that Pixar will continue to live up to its reputation as the undisputed king of computer animation and will soon give us a film that will knock Toy Story 3 off of its gilded throne. At the end of the day, and indeed despite my overt cynicism at the beginning of this review, I suppose that one could argue that saying that Brave is mediocre is like saying that one of the diamonds in Pixar’s money pile is slightly less brilliant than all the others.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

FINAL THOUGHT: I’d like to comment briefly on how much I like the trailer for this film. The purpose of a trailer, after all, is to establish the tone of the film and perhaps introduce one or two of the more interesting characters instead of spoil the entire plot in less than two minutes. The Master and Man of Steel trailers are also fine examples of artfully executed hype generators.

FINAL THOUGHT 2: La Luna was brilliant!

FINAL FINAL REDUX: Who else is super fucking excited for Les Miserables in December?!

12 thoughts on “Brave Review

    • Albert Cantu July 28, 2012 / 4:43 pm

      Haha Thank you! But seriously…you don’t understand how excited I am for Les Miserables!

  1. July 27, 2012 / 1:34 pm

    You’re right on the money. When you sit down to watch a Pixar film, you just assume it’s going to be amazing in all aspects because of how good they are. Then, when the mother gets turned into a bear, and you think to yourself, “Wasn’t this done in a Disney movie?”, you get thrown because Pixar doesn’t do that. They don’t really repeat major ideas like that because they are usually so flawless. I felt like Brave was fine – but so forgettable. Like my wife said, “I won’t remember what that was about a year from now.” Imagine thinking that about the Incredibles or Toy Story 3. They stick with you for days. All and all, Brave just made me think Pixar is not as perfect as I thought. Hopefully they will bounce back with the next one, they are still so full of the most talented people, how can they not? Great review.

    • Albert Cantu July 28, 2012 / 4:50 pm

      You should be doing my job! Although I have to admit that I feel very slightly unprofessional because I’m comparing the film to other Pixar works instead of evaluating it on it solely on its own merits. The conclusion would likely be the same, mind, but my nagging sense of having cheated remains.

  2. cross(stitch)yourheart July 27, 2012 / 1:50 pm

    I have to admit that I was more impressed with La Luna than I was with Brave. I hoped for a lot more from this film than Pixar actually delivered although I guess if I was about 15 years younger or more I might have been more impressed.

  3. Albert Cantu July 28, 2012 / 4:52 pm

    I agree that La Luna was much more impressive and I have a strange feeling that Pixar kind of phoned this one in in the hopes of a quick return at the box office instead of creating something more appetizing for us clever people. 😉

  4. Five by Five August 1, 2012 / 9:41 pm

    Agree 100% on Brave.

    Also, DEFINITELY excited for Les Mis. They appear to have assembled a wonderful match-up of film, director, and cast (capable both of singing and acting).

  5. Cinnia Aine August 2, 2012 / 6:44 pm

    This pretty much sums up my thoughts on Brave exactly as I thought them. And I’m very excited for Les Mis — I grew up on the soundtrack!

  6. reelgirl327 August 5, 2012 / 6:50 pm

    I don’t think the transition in the mother character was entirely rushed. After all, we see her nurturing in the beginning and then when we jump to Merida when she’s older, so naturally the Queen’s behavior follows suite to help make Merida the most reformable princess possible. Maybe this character was a little close to home for me personally, but it lead me to appreciate the moments where they addressed the rift in their communication and then begin to understand each other.

  7. alua August 12, 2012 / 5:47 pm

    I have heard mixed things about Brave from a number of sources. Like that it tried to be different but if we are really honest it wasn’t.

    I’m not planning to see it, although I would really, really like to see La Luna!

  8. Dylan Rhinehart August 13, 2012 / 12:50 am

    Nice review! Also can’t wait for Les Miserables!

  9. littlebells August 26, 2012 / 4:56 am

    To this day my husband still mentions La Luna and HELL YEAH for Les Mis. I saw the trailer again and started tearing up. Love your blog and reviews!

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