It’s a ridiculous concept that one should hold a movie to the standards of the past endeavors of the studio making it. We don’t hold The Three Stooges to the standards ofThe Sound Of Music because they were both made by 20th Century Fox. That would be ridiculous. But for some reason, this burden is put upon Pixar. It’s likely because that when Pixar releases a movie, it’s an event. Beyond that, it’s a special event that only comes once a year, an animation lover’s Christmas of sorts. However, last year, we opened our present and what we found was a lump of coal. A heavily-merchandised, 3D lump of coal known asCars 2. Naturally, there was hope for something better this year. That hope turned out to Pixar’s latest, Brave. How did it hold to Pixar’s usually sky-high expectations? Well, I will say this, when you’re film is directed by three people and written by four, enough has been said. Brave follows a young girl in ancient Scotland who wants to escape the shackles of a Princess life, thus setting off a dangerous series of events as a result of her actions.
You can’t really say much about the cast of Brave, since it is all voices. Frankly, all the Scottish ancients sound
the same to me and since I have no frame of reference as to what I can compare them to, I can’t tell whether or not they are good ones, although they do allow “shooting”, as in the bow-and-arrow sense, to sound like a completely different word. Yeah, yeah, call me immature. One problem I did have with the writing of our lead heroine (the first heroine in Pixar’s resume, may I add) is that she was speaking the lingo of a 2012 13-year-old girl in 1100 AD Scotland. I was half-expecting her to start talking about Justin Bieber and One Direction.
The story for the film is where things get particularly messy. What the trailers show you is the first twenty minutes of the film, trimmed down and basically copied and pasted into trailer format. This makes the opening of the film very familiar and a bit overlong. After that, the movie makes a drastic, and surprising turn. I won’t spoil anything, but frankly, it starts to feel like a mixture of a subpar Disney Princess movie and an episode of an animated TV comedy. This is partly due to the clichéd nature of the plot, the short running time which feels like it’s over before it can actually get off the ground, and the highly divisive twist which is all too unoriginal and builds its way to a pseudo-sweet conclusion that I promise you have seen a million times before. You could watch five Disney movies, and it doesn’t matter which five, and you will see the ending to Brave in at least two of them.
With the movie being written by four separate people, Brave is shockingly uneven. Not in terms of pacing, as Brave is too short of a film to have any pace changes whatsoever. In fact, it is the tone of the movie that changes sharply. One minute it’s trying to be a dark adventure, the next, it’s a slapstick comedy. And in that lies yet another problem I have with this movie: with Pixar, you expect a level of sophistication that allows for humor that both kids and adults can enjoy (ex: Toy Story 1, 2, 3, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and the list goes on), however, Brave is a film that merely goes for the cheap visual humor instead of trying to be clever or truly funny. Sure, it’ll get the little kids to stop squirming around in their seats and start laughing, but the people who paid for the tickets and brought their children will be lost in what is so funny about a joke you can see in Tom and Jerry done in a $200 million+ movie.
It may sound like I absolutely hated this movie to no end, and that isn’t true. There were times when I enjoyed myself, and the animation is beautiful and stunning, but Brave suffers due to tonal shifts and a weak story. This may be due to the fact that Pixar decided they needed a female heroine, jumped on the bandwagon of giving her a bow-and-arrow and suddenly forgot that they needed a good story to back that up and slapped on the first story they could come up with. In fact, the bow-and-arrow that served as the backbone for the film’s marketing is dropped completely from the film the minute the main plotline kicks in.
In the end, Brave is only a film that lives up to the Pixar standards in a visual sense, with the rest becoming a subpar and rather forgettable entry into the company’s repertoire. With a jumbled message, an unsure tone, and a plot you’ve probably paid to see before in a theater, Brave is more of a misfire than a bullseye.
FINAL GRADE: ★★★☆ (3.5 stars out of 10)
FINAL SAY: With an unoriginal plot, tonal shifts, and comedy that doesn’t live up to the cleverness of other Pixar films, Brave is visually dazzling yet entirely forgettable.
Brave will be released in 2D/3D theaters on June 22.