I don’t give advice to pre-teens or teenagers very often (mostly because I know they won’t listen), but when I do, it’s usually this: Don’t be horrible to your parents. You will regret it later in life and cry at night thinking about what an ungrateful little shit you were. Or you’ll cry in the middle of a movie theater while watching Brave, thinking about what an ungrateful little shit you were. Or you’ll cry in your living room while writing a movie review, thinking about what an ungrateful little shit you were. Point is, you will cry, partly because Pixar excels at reaching into your chest and ripping out your heart, and partly because you were in fact an ungrateful little shit.
Brave struck a major chord with me, because I too was a strong willed kid who wanted to do the exact opposite of whatever my parents wanted. As a pre-teen every decision my mom made was completely unfair and made no sense. I wished and prayed for her to change her mind about something at least once a week (I don’t recall that ever happening). I also felt that my younger sister got away with way more than I did. And I used to run around the backyard pretending I was riding my own Clydesdale. Basically, if I had wild red hair I would have been Merida.
But the real beauty of Brave is that it really expresses both sides of the kid vs. parent debate, which I’m beginning to understand more the older I get. Parents just want what’s best for their kids, but sometimes they don’t realize that the best way to determine this is by actually talking to their children. I know it seems cliche, but just talk to each other– and really listen– it’s just that simple.
I absolutely love Brave, though I will admit it isn’t Pixar’s best (it’s not even my favorite). Still, Pixar on a bad day is better than probably 90% of the movies being made. Not just animated movies or kids’ movies, mind you. All movies. Period.
Finally! We are up to a Pixar film. This company changed the way that kids films were made. They started treating kids like small adults, rather than small children with an IQ around 10. Ever since Toy Story was released in 1995, Pixar have been the A standard when it comes to animation. All of their films have had heart, humour and cutting edge technology. There have been a few exceptions (Cars 2?), but most of the time Pixar has hit nothing but home runs.
Brave is no different. This is a refreshingly different film about a young Scottish Princess, Merida (Kelly Macdonald), who wants to be a free spirit rather than the strict rule filled life that is expected of a Princess. Her parents (Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly) expect Merida to marry a suitor from a surrounding clan, and Queen Elinor is disappointed when Merida objects to being forced into marriage. Merida runs away, searching out a way to avoid her fate of a loveless marriage. She casts a spell to get out of her marriage, but is not prepared for the consequences of her choice and must race the clock to set things right before everything becomes permanent.
This was quite a left turn for Pixar. It was their first film to feature a female lead and there was no love interest to speak of. This was a departure for both Pixar, and animated films in general. There are no wacky sidekicks for comic relief, most of the humour is left to King Fergus. Billy Connolly is great as the Scottish king and has most of the laughs. The rest of the comic relief comes from Merida’s rambunctious young triplet brothers. Their antics are very funny.
As with all Pixar films, the animation is incredible. It’s amazing to see the progress that has been made in computer generated animation. The human characters in Toy Story look laughable compared to today’s standards. Merida’s giant bush of red hair is probably the most remarkable technical achievement. It looks great on the screen. It I wild and crazy, just like Merida wants to be.
This film is really good, but is not the greatest Pixar film. If I had to rank it against the other films from Pixar studios, it’d be near the bottom. That doesn’t mean this is a bad movie, it just means that Pixar have done better. It’s a problem most studios would like to have when if a film is not absolutely brilliant, it is considered a disappointment compared to its predecessors. I still really like this film, it’s just that the bar is so high for Pixar and this feels like somewhat of a letdown.