Article by: Coop Cooper
A.K.A. The Small Town Critic
Disney’s Pixar Animation has an impeccable record. They consistently lead the way in revolutionizing the technology behind animated films and each time they release one, it’s a guaranteed blockbuster. They follow a very specific formula since the film must appeal to both children and adults in order to secure their chances for success. Unfortunately for their latest release, “Brave,” the story lost its way with an ill-advised plot twist.
Set in Medieval Scotland, Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) resists her overbearing mother (Emma Thompson) who attempts to groom her into becoming a traditional, proper lady. Merida would much rather spend time practicing her archery and riding through the woods on her horse. When the time comes for Merida to become betrothed to one of three oafish young lords, she rebels and bests them all in games meant to award them her hand. This infuriates her mother and endangers her father’s (Billy Connolly) kingdom. A chance encounter with a witch (Julie Walters) promises a change in Merida’s situation, but the spell she unleashes only further complicates matters.
The story started off promising. “A rebellious teen showing an old-fashion world that girls can be just as skilled and courageous as boys…” This is the only theme this story needed to be a winner. Instead, a ridiculous twist halfway through adds a goofy and unneeded spin on the story that derails the entire film. The culprit plot device: Magic.
The animation was beautiful, the characters were fairly well-developed and the setting was absolutely enchanting. In no way did the setting call for magic, nor was it needed to propel the setup forward. But they went there and I suppose the idea was to make little kids squeal with delight, but for adults the moment of the twist is potentially groan-inducing. What started out as a cool film became absolute farce with a sappy climax tacked on to try and trick the viewer into caring in the end.
Not to say the film is entirely for children. There are moments of peril and dread but nothing a kid wouldn’t be able to forget about with a post-cinema ice cream in their hand. I imagine young girls will find an apt role model in Merida, despite her more bratty moments. Her little triplet brothers were absolutely souless and terrifying. If this had been a horror movie, they would have been the scariest villains in the story.
Not to give anything away about the plot but “The ______ Queen” (you’ll be able to fill in the blank once you’ve seen the movie) would have been a much more apt and goofy title for a film. The main character was already ‘brave’ but for some reason, the writers felt she must learn humility and understanding instead. I would have been a lot happier if Merida had simply gone on a quest to hunt a legendary wild beast and discovered her true bravery as was promised in the trailer.
Compared to Dreamworks’ near-perfect “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Brave” doesn’t come close, but kids will still enjoy it even if the parents tune out at the halfway point.
Many people ask my why more movies aren’t made for kids these days. That’s a potentially long discussion but in terms of animated films, it’s actually a short one. Watch the end credits of a current animated film and try to estimate how many people are involved in the making of it. They are labor-intensive, expensive and take about three years or more to develop. An animated flop would bankrupt a studio. Thankfully “Brave” is not that flop, but Disney/Pixar would do well avoid uneven stories such as this one.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 5