Pixar‘s latest movie, Brave, is a film I’ve been eager to see. I believe this is their thirteenth major film effort and all of them have been wildly successful with every last one winning the opening weekend box office. This, of course, was no different beating the #2 film—another major animated film, by more than 3-to-1. However, for me it’s not among Pixar’s best.
Brave is a mother-daughter film at heart and presents us with the story of a Scottish princess growing up under a very demanding (but loving) mother (the Queen). There are always expectations both as a princess and that of a young lady and her mother makes her aware of them at every turn.
When young Merida (whose name I kept hearing as “murder” for most of the film) finally pushes back the consequences are far more than she bargained for and nearly permanently catastrophic. You see, one night while running away she comes upon an area of the woods much like Stonehenge (but that’s in southern England) and there some magical wisps direct her to a witch’s cottage. She asks the witch for an ill-fated potion to “change your mother’s mind” that transforms her mother into a bear—of course the very creature her father has a long and tortured history with.
Merida must both undo the spell before it’s too late and keep her bear/mother alive in the midst of her bear-hating father and the rest of the citizenry. The film has some wonderful moments including a mother/daughter scene involving fishing that’s just heart-warming—but there’s just not enough meat in the middle.
The film initially grabs us with its stunning visuals—the very best I’ve seen in any animated effort and the very striking Merida. Then it falls into a series of improbable, flat sequences that just don’t feel right before finally bringing it all together with a nice moral at the end. There’s also a few good songs along the way.
Merida is a fantastic Pixar character and one that will likely show up as a Disney staple before too long but she’s alone is this film. Everyone else seems like a poor caricature-type. We never really get to know any of them in any way that makes us care and that’s a lot of lost potential. I had the feeling for much of the film that the scriptwriters really didn’t have any clue what to do with Merida as she simply doesn’t fit into the story in which she finds herself. She’s a proverbial fish out of water and seems bigger than the entire rest of the film. Unfortunately she isn’t real so there’s likely to be no other venue in which she’ll be able to shine.