Sunday, July 1, 2012

Breakdown of Pixar's "Brave"

Today wraps up the third weekend that Pixar's Brave has been at the box office, and if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend that you do.  So far it has grossed $131 million dollars, which puts it on par with most of Pixar's recent efforts.

First off, the visuals are simply astounding.  This is easily one of Pixar's best looking movies.  When you have the Scottish Highlands to work with, it's hard for the scenery to miss.  All the characters look great, and all of the features and praise about Merida's hair are well deserved.  Between Merida and Rapunzel from Tangled, Lasseter and his gang know how to make a head of hair look incredible.

I sincerely hope that the movie succeeds in its efforts to expand Pixar's horizons.  I had a lot riding on Brave since I see it as the studio's chance to redeem themselves for the shameless money maker that was Cars 2.  It's an original fairy tale, but you'd never know since the story elements feel right at home with the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.  This doesn't mean the story is perfect however.  The longer you watch the movie, the more it simplifies until by the end we're left with a stereotypical Disney ending (sans Prince Charming).  The entire first act had me on the edge of my seat, but by the time the magical factor was introduced, especially once it entered Brother Bear meets Freaky Friday territory, I started to wonder, "What happened to the movie I was watching?"

The characters are a mixed bag.  Merida is the first fairy tale protagonist in a long time that actually feels like she is supposed to be a teenager.  She has strength and a lot of potential, but is still enough of a self-obsessed kid to not see the seriousness of her actions, especially when administering an unknown potion to her mother.  The enlightened speech she gave the clans when sneaking her mother into the castle was the last great moment before everything succumbed to cliche resolution.

Merida's father, played by Billy Connolly, is my favorite character and is the real heart of the family, even if he was a bit thick at times.  I also loved every moment of mischief from Harris, Hubert, and Hamish.  It made me want ginger triplets more than I ever thought possible.  Conversely, Merida's mother felt a bit flat, although I was impressed by how well they were able to implant her personality into a bear.  I also would have like to have seen more details about the three visiting clans.  Since the three suitors for Merida suddenly have opinions at the end, some background there would be both helpful and interesting.  More of Mor'du would have been great as well because he was just wonderful looking and reminded me of Glen Keane's bear from The Fox and the Hound.

I can't help but wonder how many of the hiccups in the movie were the result of its production history.  Brenda Chapman's vision shone through early on, but after she was removed from the project, it kind of felt like the boy's club at Pixar just ran with it without understanding the real heart of the narrative.  It could also just be that this is new territory for them.  At several points I even forgot that I was watching a Pixar movie.  It genuinely had more of a classic Disney feel with some occasional Pixar wit.  I hope Brave serves as a good learning opportunity for Lasseter & Co. about how to take what worked and what didn't.  They're at a crossroads right now: they can either turn into just another studio or they can make animated films the likes of which haven't been seen since in decades. 

1 comment:

  1. Nothing could be worse than Cars 2, I guess. It's interesting to me that Pixar made a movie that's so... wishy-washy, I guess. It doesn't sound BAD, but it sounds like there are bits that are tacked on or unpolished, which is not their typical MO. Still, more humans and less anthropomorphic vehicles is a step in the right direction.

    Also: Billy Connolly is the man.