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July 1, 2012

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Capsule Movie Review – Brave (2012)

by HELEN GEIB

Brave advocates for female succession and women in the military and against arranged marriage. With the global reach of Pixar’s films, it will undoubtedly be seen in many areas of the world where those battles are ongoing. In its home country, its strongest feminist statement is more subtle, made as much by the pairing of audience and story as by the story in itself: a mass-market animated family film that is a girl’s coming-of-age story, where the central storyline is the growing pains in her relationship with her mother and the only romance is her parents’ marriage. The setting is a children’s fantasy version of Scotland. We know it’s Scotland because some of the characters have Scottish accents and/or names and there are tartans, will o’ the wisps, and a quite fine ring of standing stones. There’s also a deal of ethnic humor; the lazy comedy writing continues in the kid-friendly antics of heroine Merida’s little brothers, undifferentiated triplets running circles around hapless adults. All ages will enjoy the comedy arising from those universal, eminently relatable growing pains, and the relationship drama is sure-footed. Kelly Macdonald as Merida, Emma Thompson as the mom, and Billy Connolly as the dad are the principal and most noteworthy voices in the cast. The fantasy and quasi-historical visuals are rendered in remarkably realistic detail; Merida’s exuberant red hair is a marvel.

3 stars

Double Feature It With…: Labyrinth for an evening of family-friendly fantasies counseling girls to be careful what they wish for


12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Miriam
    Jul 1 2012

    A bit too talky in the climax but entertaining and carrying a positive message. That’s an interesting point about the international audiences.

    As a Mom, I was pleased that the Queen/Mother character was both strong and loving though, of course, making her daughter’s life miserable – a refreshing change from many cartoon and fairy tale mothers.

    And you’re right about Merida’s awesome hair. All power to the curly-haired!

  2. Aaron
    Jul 1 2012

    I felt the film wasn’t as sophisticated as Pixar’s movies in the past. It seemed to water down its characters into archetypes.

  3. Jul 2 2012

    …I don’t like Labyrinth . I watched it, initially a few years back and didn’t like much of it. I know that that’s neither here nor there but what’s the true selling point of Brave?

  4. Jul 2 2012

    @Miriam: Merida’s hair was probably my favorite part of the movie. If that sounds like faint praise, it isn’t meant to be- her hair is amazing, and practically a character in itself!

    @Aaron: That’s a fair point, the characters are certainly familiar types. I thought Merida and her mom had personality, even if “Freaky Friday” did provide the template. The other characters are basically just comic relief.

    @Nir: Well, it’s a nice family film with good lessons, and the animation is splendid. It’s a movie for children that parents can enjoy too.

  5. Ken
    Jul 2 2012

    The trauiler looked good, and my niece gave it her thumbs up! I’m not really the target demographic for this, but I’ll catch it when it comes out on DVD. This review sealed that deal.

  6. Aaron
    Jul 2 2012

    @helen

    Still neither had near the amount of development as characters like Russel from UP or even WALL-E. Usually Pixar films have well rounded characters with heavy philosophical points hidden in the narrative. In Brave, it took no effort on my part to tell where the characters were going or what was going to happen next in the plot. It just wasn’t as well written as some of Pixar’s other films.

  7. Jul 2 2012

    And I’m with Ken. Except that I find the trailer remarkably boring and the film looked uninteresting. The fact that most people and critics compare it to standard Disney films is a big drawback and I will see it in the future but I won’t pay to see it in a theatre.

    @Helen, your review is good but doesn’t make the film sound like… like it needs to be seen. You make it sound like you’d simply enjoyed it and that’s understandable. But that’s not Pixar. Then again, neither was Cars 2… 0_<

  8. Aaron
    Jul 3 2012

    @Nir:

    Or Cars 1 ;). Smart choice to wait for DVD.

  9. Jul 3 2012

    @Aaron, The Incredibles and Cars are the only Pixar films that I only liked. I find that they’re pretty good and have a feeling that I’d feel the same about Brave. Trailers lie all the time but the general consensus seems to be that “at least Brave isn’t nearly as bad as Cars 2“. :O)

  10. Aaron
    Jul 3 2012

    I’m surprised you liked Cars, Nir. What did you like about it?

    I love all of Pixar’s other films! Why the dislike?

  11. Jul 3 2012

    I’m pretty sure Nir means that “Cars” and “The Incredibles” are just okay whereas all of Pixar’s other movies (“Cars 2” excluded) are terrific. He can- and I’m sure will- correct me if I’m wrong. :-)

    “Brave” isn’t a great movie but the animation is really, really good and there are some parts of the story that I really liked. It’s not a must-see except for parents looking for a good movie to take the kids to. Not being a Pixar devotee I rate it about equal to several of their films. The best Pixar to my mind is “Ratatouille”, which is simply wonderful.

  12. Jul 3 2012

    @Helen, you are absolutely correct. That is exactly what I meant to say. :O)

    Ratatouille Wall-E, and Up, are Pixar’s top 3 films and it’ll be very difficult for them to make better films than those three.

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