Review: “Brave” brings audiences on an unexpected family-focused adventure that follows an unusual path for Pixar

in Disney, Movies, Pixar, Reviews

brave

When Pixar’s first venture into the world of Disney princesses hits theaters on Friday, audiences should expect to follow an unusual journey with “Brave.” Not only does this latest animated film from the highly-successful studio give viewers a first-ever female lead Pixar character, Merida, but also a surprisingly small cast, focusing almost exclusively on a handful of characters.

But unlike many previous Pixar films that have tended to tug on heart strings, reducing many a moviegoer to tears, “Brave” is not the same kind of emotional ride. There surely are highs and lows as teenage Merida fights her own internal struggle to “change” her fate of leading a dull, formal princess life, instead desiring to grow into becoming her own woman. But the princess story told many a time before ends there, as the film takes an unexpected turn – for the better or for the worse, depending on your perspective.

Pixar is anything but conventional and their take on a princess-driven fairy tale isn’t like any other Disney has produced. While there are some familiar elements, a princely challenge for the princess’s hand in marriage for instance, the majority of this tale meanders through a rather straightforward storyline for a Pixar film, as Merida is joined by one of her closest relatives in seeking a common goal. To reveal anymore would spoil the film’s core plot, which should remain a surprise.

This unexpected direction the film takes will not be for everyone. There is action, there is a small sense of adventure, and quite a lot of bonding. But “Brave” lacks an overall strong emotional connection to any of its characters, focusing more closely on what happens rather than how anyone feels about it. The action can be intense, perhaps a bit too much for a younger audience, hence the film’s PG rating. And believe it or not, there’s even a bit of comedic nudity – a first for a Pixar film.

There is also a strong emphasis on family to the film, centering around Merida, her mother, her father, and her three mischievous brothers. The former three are the film’s leads while the brothers serve exclusively as comic relief – or sometimes it’s comedy on top of comedy. Performances are solid and Scottish accents are thin and never difficult to understand, except for comedic purposes. There is a clear balance between all the silly and sometimes crass comedy and the strong action, but with very little drama mixed in.

The Scotland-set world presented in “Brave” is gorgeous, particularly in 3D. Sweeping scenic shots look nothing short of photorealistic, blended beautifully with the animated characters that grow more lifelike each time Pixar produces a new film.

Despite grand vistas of the Scottish highlands, “Brave” overall is a small scale movie, honing in on a few key locales and characters to tell a fairly simple story with a simple moral. Before being known as “Brave,” the film was to be called “The Bear and the Bow,” which would have been a rather apt title succinctly summarizing the story’s most important elements.

This tale may not be an instant classic for fans of the rich fictional worlds of “Toy Story” and “Monsters, Inc.” and isn’t quite as grand of an adventure as “Finding Nemo” or “The Incredibles,” but “Brave” does sit well on its own as an entertaining film unto itself. The film itself very much mirrors its main character, not needing to follow the formula from or outdo Pixar’s past movies, instead leading audiences on a unique path of its own.

“Brave” is also preceded by the new Pixar short “La Luna,” which is a visually interesting vignette that’s entirely without any real dialogue (instead having a plethora of grunts, mumbles, and gestures) but still manages to tell a fun little story about the moon. And “Brave” does feature an extra scene after credits roll, so stay seated after the story concludes.

“Brave” hits U.S. theaters on Friday, June 22, 2012.


Related Video

Merida meets and greets theme park guests at Walt Disney World:

“Brave” Highland Games at Epcot:

“Brave” sequence in World of Color at Disneyland:


14 Comments

  1. Corbin

    My problem is that the story was too small for the gigantic world that Pixar created.

    The details of the environment were so amazing that you couldn’t wait to ride through it with Merida and follow her through a Lord of the Rings-like adventure. But in the end it was merely a backdrop that the characters stood in front of rather than an environment that they traveled through. The movie wasn’t “bad”, but it did feel like a let down because with Cars 2 being so mediocre then Pixar really needed a bullseye. (groan)

    Seriously though, I hope that the crass and juvenile humor of both Cars 2 and Brave aren’t a trend because Pixar has a reputation to rebuild and genital jokes aren’t the way to get them back on top.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I agree with absolutely everything you wrote. My thoughts exactly.

    2. Mmay

      I agree with Corbin 100%. I also wanted to add that the story was weaker as time passed; as well as the humor. I am not recommending this movie and if I have to pinpoint one thing, it is the nudity. It was totally unexpected and unwarranted. I was upset that my son was subjected to it. My bad, I didn’t think I had to research a pixar movie for questionable material.

  2. OT

    Not another princes, was my first thought. I’m getting sick of almost every Disney movie is slapping the princes thing on it. The movies are greet, don”t get me wrong but The Princes and the Frog would have been awesome if she just met a guy and they lived happily ever after, the same as Tangled. They seem only to be succesfull if they merry a guy who is rich and has power, great message Disney.
    That said, I love the previews I’ve seen from Brave and the so called (by prude Americans)”comedic nudity”will go down for what it is in the rest of the western world, just fun.

    1. Jeff Lynch

      I think the word you keep trying to use is “princess” with two Ss at the end.

      The word “princes” with only one S is the plural of the word “prince”, meaning there are two or more “princes” who are male royals.

      Maybe the people you call “prude Americans” are really people who just have trouble understanding you because you are using the wrong words to communicate.

    2. Maybe you forgot, but Rapunzel DID end up with a regular guy. Flynn isn’t rich or powerful, so um, yes, great message, Disney. Nice try. Care to have another?

      If Disney princesses “just met a guy and they lived happily ever after,” that would sure make for a really boring movie.

  3. Jeff Lynch

    I don’t know why bathroom humor has to be part of Disney movies. This started with the flatulence in The Lion King from Pumbaa. What’s next? Remaking Snow White so that this time the poisoned apple gives her diarrhea? I am really sick of this trend of putting bathroom humor in Disney things.

    1. Kitty Corbin

      I hadnt seen Lion King in years before it came out on 3D and I guess I forgot how much bathroom humor was in it. Even the music had a reference to farting.

      I know that kids love it, but IMO cheap laughs are a sign of bad writing which is what’s most disappointing about seeing Pixar going down this route.The yellow snowcones in Monsters Inc is good crude humor, but Mater peeing himself, Mater getting an “undercarriage wash” or all the mooning etc in Brave are changing my view of Pixar because they (used to) know how to make a solid joke without having to be in the gutters.

    2. Dave Bates

      Bathroom Humor = no money from me and my family. They were so proud of it they put it in the trailer. Good luck with that guys. This is the first Pixar movie I will not bother to go see.

    3. Joe Ludwig

      If you’re referring to the “feast your eyes” gag it is a brief joke that takes advantage of the setting of men in kilts.

  4. Carolyn

    I hope John Ratzenberger has a part! :)

  5. Joe Ludwig

    For the complaints of the “small scale” or less environments than some were expecting: the story takes place exactly where it needs to. There are many incredible environments in this world, and the fact that you weren’t paying attention to them is exactly what Pixar wants. If you’re paying attention to the backgrounds then they’re failing in their storytelling. There was an entire montage early in the film comprised only of Scotland, even some environments we didn’t go back to later in the film. It will be included in the film if it serves the story, otherwise it’s just fat that needs to be trimmed.

  6. ANDREW

    I think people are having trouble with this movie because its different! I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Its not another classic pixar comedy it has more depth and I just think its a breathe of fresh air. The humor was not bad, I thought it worked so well!

  7. Good review, Ricky. I pretty much agree with every point. It’s interesting how this movie is being reviewed almost across the board as just okay. It was good, but not great, which I was expecting. (Of course it’s still light years better than Cars 2, but that’s not a very high standard to beat…)

    And yes, the potty humor is increasing. I always thought that’s what separated Pixar’s animated movies from those churned out by DreamWorks, but now the lines are blurring a lot more. Brave looked a lot like a DreamWorks movie from the first trailers, and How To Train Your Dragon has quite a few Pixar-like touches. Hopefully Pixar doesn’t resort to increased gross humor (which I thought was minor in Brave but heavy in Cars 2) and instead keeps it classy going forward. They have a reputation to uphold after all, and after Cars 2, to win back.

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