Doug Reviews Pixar’s “Brave”
Pixar Animation Studio is known for its impeccable body of work; in the short time that the studio has been around, they’ve created some of the most iconic and loveable characters of this generation. In a time where Hollywood is struggling to tell poignant stories, Pixar makes this task seem effortless. And what’s perhaps most worthy of praise is they don’t simply rest on the success of their franchises – they continue to take risk after risk, while consistently making great films.
For their latest, instead of talking animals and autonomous objects, Pixar has chosen to tell a distinctly human story set in a fictional 13th century Scotland negotiating interesting themes as it explores themes of gender roles, parental expectations and fate. In classic Pixar form, this is a story that appeals to audiences, young and old with a narrative told simply but with great effect.
The trailers for the film set up the basic premise of the film, but don’t give away much more, as this film is abundant with surprises. Princess Merida is a tomboyish and rebellious young woman (with a head full of tangled red hair) who has been in training to be queen, begrudgingly, for her whole life by her mother. As part of her ascent to the throne, the next step is that she’s to pick a suitor as per a very long tradition. Of course, she is resolutely opposed.
Merida runs away from home and meets a witch that is able to change her fate by “changing her mother” as Merida wishes. Well, perhaps Merida should have been more careful with her choice of words, as the spell gives her want she wants, maybe a little to literally. As the film progresses, we see Merida deal with the consequences of her actions and learn the lessons she needs to right the wrong her stubbornness has created.
Instead of going for the lighthearted feel of Pixar’s other films, this film presents a surprisingly rich drama, but with plenty of comic relief to buoy the tone. The story of a relationship between mother and daughter is refreshing to see on screen, as films have typically focused on father and son relationships in the past. It’s interesting to see Pixar extend itself this way and be successful at it.
But in focusing on this distinctly feminine narrative, it seems that Pixar has whittled down the male characters to caricatures. In the short time that the men in this movie are presented, they are highly competitive or childishly at war with each other. Oafish and hungry to prove their manliness, this side of the gender roles themes is somewhat two-dimensional, but it also has its funny moments.
What’s also worthy of mention is that this film is quite a bit darker than your average animation film. Kids that are easily scared or subject to nightmares should probably wait to see this on DVD as the big screen may overwhelm them.
Brave is an ambitious film that is successful in its aims. The risks taken have paid off once again and this film is undoubtedly worthy of Pixar’s budding legacy of great films, which is saying a lot.