Co-Directed by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, and Brenda Chapman
Written by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi
Starring Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, John Ratzenberger
Rated PG | 93 Minutes
Release Date: June 22, 2012
November 22nd, 1995. Aside from it being my sister’s 23rd birthday, it’s also the theatrical release date of Pixar’s first feature film, Toy Story. I was 10 years, 11 months and 18 days old, the perfect age (approximately) for your typical adolescent boy to be super-excited about an all-CGI film.
The thing is, I wasn’t really a normal kid. As a chubby, four-eyed fourth grader, I was wearing Aliens t-shirts and watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day and RoboCop on VHS while other kids sang along to “Under the Sea” or “A Whole New World.”
Walt Disney classics like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Lion King didn’t interest me. I was too busy tugging at my mom’s shirt, begging her to rent Alien 3 from the local video store – which she did, only if I promised not to repeat any of the bad words I heard. She still ended up fast-forwarding through the gory moments, but by God no cartoon could ever compare.
When I saw Toy Story years later, I really enjoyed it – because of the connection I felt to the characters. Even as a middle-schooler I experienced a bit of nostalgia for a time before school, when I didn’t have to get up early to catch the bus – when I could just sit and play with toys all day. Even then it was easy to see that Pixar had put a lot of genuine heart into their films – that there was a real emotional anchor to the story, and not just a bunch of pretty animation.
Pixar is the highest standard in animation. From Wall-E to Up and the Toy Story trilogy, their films have completely revolutionized animation and reintroduced a classic sense of heart and humor to a rather generic landscape of animated children’s entertainment. Their latest film, Brave, is a solid attempt at maintaining that high level of quality, but just misses the mark.
Brave is two parts Freaky Friday mixed with one part Braveheart, an examination of mother-daughter relationships set in the Scottish Highlands. Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) defies an age-old custom by refusing betrothal to one of Kingdom of DunBroch’s first-born suitors, a notion as wild and crazy as the young heroine’s wild and crazy flaming red hair.
Her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), discourages the young Merida from her passion of archery in hopes of transforming her warrior princess daughter into a proper lady. Merida’s father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), encourages Merida’s rebellious nature, which has created a rift between her and her mother.
Merida consults an elderly witch in the woods who offers a spell that will change her mother – too bad Merida didn’t realize the spell would physically change her. Now, with her family cursed, Merida is forced to undo the spell herself before it’s too late – and it will take her and her mother working together to do it.
Brave is the first Pixar film to feature a female protagonist, which should be refreshing – but instead it feels more like a Disney Princess adventure than an actual Pixar film. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of heart and humor, but the complexity of the characters is missing, as is a multi-layered story. To create the impeccable visuals of Brave, Pixar completely rewrite their animation system for the first time in 25 years – which shows what was most important in the creation of this film. The visuals are stunning – I’m still baffled by that tangled mess of red hair on Merida’s head – but the story is rather generic, with very few surprises.
Still, Brave is a good option this weekend for some mother-daughter bonding time – or a welcome break from the heavy, testosterone-fueled films of the summer thus far.