I finally got myself to the theater to see the latest release from Disney Pixar. Brave premiered last week and came in #1 at the box office over the weekend with $66 million. Not bad. Yet critics haven't loved this film and so I wasn't sure if I should bother.
But I'm glad I did.
Everyone and their mother can agree on one thing: this film is STUNNING. Merida's 3D animated hair alone is worth a viewing. It has the liveliness of Ariel's 2D hair in The Little Mermaid. And the scenery is lovely, especially if you're as big a fan of the British Isles as I am.
Another agreement between critics and myself: the Brave cast is phenomenal. Kelly MacDonald (Boardwalk Empire) gives Merida plenty of teenage stubbornness-- perhaps reminiscent of her own life growing up-- while Billy Connolly (Lemony Snicket's..., Boondock Saints) continues to be amazing as her brawns-over-brain yet loving father King Fergus. And of course let's not forget Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor-- she's just wonderful.
That being said, Brave is different from other Pixar films. Had it come from Dreamworks, Nickelodeon, or even Disney Animation (like Tangled), critics and audiences alike would've considered the film competition for Pixar, excited to see how this legendary studio could best such a simple story. Had Brave been an earlier released from Pixar I think it would've received much more praise. Unfortunately, after the rousing successes of the Toy Story franchise, Wall-E, Up, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, A Bug's Life, and Monster's Inc, Brave is simpler with less of the complex humor that entertains children yet reaches adults. Oddly enough, the short cartoon before the film-- La Luna-- carries more of the Pixar charm, intelligence, and imagination than the whole of Brave.
To sum it up, Brave is a physical film. What do I mean? Slapstick comedy is the main source of humor which makes complete sense when you realize the story deals with Scottish clans people. These are physical people whose lives consist of work, battle, and celebrations. It makes sense to have physical humor. Plus having three troublesome triplet boys requires a lot of slapstick. There's nothing wrong with this especially when it's cleverly choreographed-- I laughed out loud through most of the film and thought the boys a great source of entertainment. Yet, when compared to the other films, I can see where critics would find the humor base.
In terms of story, Brave surprised me. I thought it was a film about Merida going on an adventure to change her fate, when in reality it's a film about mother/daughter bonds. This struck a cord with me as I myself used to fight with my mom, thinking she was mean when in actuality she always loved me and wanted what was best for me. We needed to understand each other and that's the exact conflict between Merida and Elinor. I think Moms and Daughters will appreciate Brave's themes, but they ring true for any parental relationship. While this story could've been done live action by any other studio, it's still interesting, sweet, and yes... I might have teared up a little at the end. And your kids will love it-- boys and girls alike. There's plenty of action and silliness to keep their attention.
Overall, I say this is worth a family trip to the theater once, and maybe even spend extra on the 3D if you like that sort of thing. For myself, I can't wait for the blu-ray as Brave will look absolutely out-of-this-world amazing on that technology.