Pixar Review 31: Brave

braveAre you ready to test your fate?

Let’s talk a little Brave. This is Pixar’s attempt to enter the princess movie and their first movie with a female protagonist (and until Inside Out only).

I’ll say it right from beginning Brave is my least favorite Pixar film.  That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it.  I do.  I like all the Pixar films but the problem with Brave is it doesn’t deliver the type of story it promises to tell.  My next lowest Cars 2, flaws and all, is actually consistent from frame 1 a spy movie and stays very close to the genre throughout.  Brave promises an epic legend and in the end we kind of get a nursery rhyme style fable (like an Aesops Fable).

I love the way Brave starts out.  We see the Princess Merida independent and free spirited out climbing mountains and touching the sky.

As a fellow curly haired girl I love Merida’s look and her hair!  It’s gorgeous.  You don’t see curly haired heroines often and I love hers!

brave9Much like Little Mermaid Merida is angry with her parental figure and seeks something greater than the confines of the life they have planned for her.  If you haven’t gathered from the blog this is a character archetype I relate too very strongly as I always wanted to do things my own way and be my own person.  This is why I loved Ariel and Belle

Merida’s main source of conflict comes with her Mother Elinor (voiced by the great Emma Thompson) who wants her to take her responsibilities as princess and future queen seriously.  They fight and argue, neither listening to each other at all. I think nearly all girls I know can relate to this dynamic with their mother.

"BRAVE" (L-R) MERIDA and QUEEN ELINOR. ©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.Elinor decides to force her daughter to participate in a Highland Games that will decide her betrothal to one of 3 idiots.  I do really like that they do not make one of the suitors a possible love interest.  That would have been such a cop out.

But Merida decides she will shoot for her own hand in a both prideful and desperate attempt to change her fate (can you blame her for not wanting to marry one of these guys?).

Well, her Mother and her fight after this display and embarrassment (I like that both Mother and Daughter are at fault here).  In frustration Merida swipes a sword through her mothers tapestry with her family and storms off into the forest.

brave22As she races in the forest her horse throws her and she ends up at a cottage with a goofy witch.

brave211In Merida’s defense the witch does look harmless enough and is actually a pretty funny character.  In some ways she’s a little bit like Ursula although much less developed and memorable.  Merida asks her to change her Mom so she can change her fate.  I honestly don’t think she would ever assume her Mother would be turned into a bear or hurt physically in any way.  She wants her Mother to all the sudden be accepting of her life choices and not make her go through with the betrothal, which at the moment is her fate.

brave23The witch warns her about tempting fate but she does anyway and gets a cake to give to her Mother.  She eats it as do her troublemaker triplet brothers.

All of them get turned into bears and that’s where Brave starts to lose me.  Like I said before it goes from being epic in feel, a legend, to being a nursery rhyme about a woman turned into a bear.  One might say it goes from being very grand and big to being small.  I still think it is watchable.  It’s certainly a million times better than Brother Bear which has an oddly similar story.

brave13Merida goes back to the witch to find out what they must do and are told they have 2 days to break the spell or Elinor will remain a bear.  To break it “fate be changed mend the bond torn by pride”.  So that’s pretty much the rest of the movie.  Elinor and Merida learning to respect each other.

But even that would be fine but the tone varies greatly between slapstick with the brothers who are also bears, pretty scary scenes with the bear Mor’du and sentimental scenes of Merida fishing with her Mom.   Small children may be scared by the Mor’du.  I know one of my nieces had to be taken out when I took them to see Brave. It’s very realistically done.

brave12The animation throughout Brave is stunning.  Whether it is the fierce bear Mor’du or the grand vistas of Scotland it looks so beautiful.

Disney's Brave

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The voice acting is great in Brave with Kelly MacDonald a striking Merida, Thompson as Elinor, Billy Connolly as King Fergus, Julie Walters as The Witch and Robbie Coltrane, Craig Ferguson, and John Ratzenberger all contributing talent.  The music by Patrick Doyle is some of Pixar’s best.

I also love the songs by Mumford and Sons and Julie Fowlis.

I do also love the core message about family and mending those bonds no matter how different we might see.  I like the resolution and that it doesn’t involve meeting a man or being rescued.  There also aren’t that many movies that explore the relationship between a Mother and a Daughter especially in animation and I think many girls can relate to the generational and communication gap between Merida and Elinor.  I certainly can and felt many of those same feelings when I was Merida’s age towards my Mother (who was a near perfect Mother).  Most girls I know want to do their own thing.  They want to create their own fate not have it decided for them by anyone else.

All of that works in Brave.  It just feels disappointing because of what we expected to receive from the introduction.  Not the epic quest we were hoping for.   I do like the ending with Pixar pulling off the emotional scene very well as they always do.

Another problem I think it has is a story like this usually has a central villain like an Ursula who antagonizes the heroine or shows some kind of real threat.  The witch in Brave is only briefly seen and isn’t really a villain.  We all know how Brave is going to end so without the villain it becomes kind of muddled and predictable.  Frozen also doesn’t have a central villain until very late in the game but to me at least that works much better because you have other unpredictable elements like 2 princesses and an ending which again for me really worked.  Plus, Frozen is a musical which is a favorite genre of mine and much better comic relief in Olaf.

brave2So for me Brave is a missed opportunity.  A lot of the problem probably comes down to the change in directors midway through from Brenda Chapman to Mark Andrews and the other issues they had making the movie.   It’s not bad.  In fact, I enjoy watching it but it could have been a real masterpiece.

They never will but I would love for them to go back to the world of Brave and give us a true legend.  I want battles and a wicked Queen out to take Merida’s thrown.  That’s the kind of legend we were promised (especially in the trailers) for Brave but we didn’t get.

Still definitely worth a watch.

Overall Grade- C  Not bad Pixar considering this is the lowest grade I will give one of your movies.

Also a lot of people were very upset that Wreck-it Ralph didn’t win the Oscar.  I actually think both movies suffer from the same problems.  They don’t for me deliver what they promise in the introduction but they both have characters I really like. I also gave Wreck-it Ralph a C and I stand by that grade.   If it were me giving out the award that year I would have picked Paranorman, which is funny, creative, well paced, quite scary, with a very unique take on a bully villain.  I watched it with my friends last Halloween and it holds up very well.  I also think Pirates Band of Misfits is great, but that’s just me!

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Ranking Official Disney Princesses

Disney-Princess-disney-princess-33854150-1778-1779

So we have 2 weeks till Big Hero 6 premiere and I will post my Frozen review this weekend (I intend to watch it 5 or 6 times to do a very good job)

In the next 2 weeks I will also be posting lots of top 10 lists culminating in my complete rankings once I see Big Hero 6.  This should be a lot of fun and I would love it if you would share your lists in the comments each time.

Of course, it goes without saying it is just my opinion and most of these are nitpicking.  Out of 53 movies I will give 20 movies an A category grade, 30 with a B or higher  (which is pretty remarkable when you think about it) so I like them all but minute differences lead to my rankings.

I thought I would start with ranking the official Disney Princesses because I love the princess movies. These are not all the women, or even princesses in Disney Canon, that will be another list.   However, I am including Anna and Elsa in Frozen because they are considered princesses in waiting (they have a coronation ceremony and everything).

Some people gripe about Mulan being included but that doesn’t bother me because there are no princesses in China.  If there were she would have been made one in the movie for sure.  She certainly shows all the qualities of a princess so it’s fine with me.

This list also includes Merida from Brave, which I have not reviewed, because she is an official Disney Princess. Also, this is a ranking of the princesses themselves not the movies they are in.

RANKING DISNEY PRINCESSES

1. Belle- smart, thoughtful, compassionate and brave

Princess-Belle

2. Ariel- free spirit, not afraid to take risks, loyal, impetuous

ariel

3. Cinderella- hard worker, good friend, kind, optimistic

cinderella24. Tiana- hard worker, dedicated, loyal, goal setter, soft spoken but bold

tiana5. Rapunzel- optimistic, naive but smart in own way, inquisitive, fun-loving and hopeful

Rapunzel_and_pascal

6. Mulan- Loyal, brave, strong, determined, a fighter

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7. Elsa- Free, empowered, conflicted, learns self acceptance and control, beautiful, strong

elsa8. Merida- bold, impetuous, free spirit, brave, confident,  curly hair

Merida_web_small9. Jasmine- independent, loving., spunky, compassionate

jasmine10. Anna- innocent, sweet, kind, believes in others, impetuous, willing to take risks

anna11.. Snow White- optimistic, kind, positive, happy

snow white12. Aurora- asleep most movie but beautiful, a singer, a dreamer, optimistic, loving and  like her better in blue!

Auroraonmodel13. Pocahontas- loves nature, kind and brave.  Last because she doesn’t change or grow much and her choices actually cause death

Pocahontas-disney-princess-31322105-1280-800