Saturday, June 30, 2012

My review of "Brave"

Pixar makes movies with great stories, great characters, and great moments.  They tend to do that better than any of the major movie studios and seem to collect Oscars every year.  The best part about all this is that their movies are animated.

There is a paradigm that suggests that animated movies are nothing more than cartoons for children.   Anyone who has seen a Pixar movie knows that is the farthest thing from the truth.  Pixar uses a niche form of media to tell stories in effective ways.  Their latest effort, “Brave”, follows an established tradition of quality storytelling and character building.  I enjoyed it immensely and am about to tell you why.

First, here is the cast:

Merida…  Kelly Macdonald
Fergus… Billy Connolly
Elinor… Emma Thompson
The Witch…  Julie Walters

The story of “Brave” centers around a Scottish princess named Merida.  She is a spitfire to say the least and has a craving for adventure.  She is not the typical young lady of royalty.  This is established early on with a flashback that shows how she got the bow she now wields like a professional.  The flashback also provides us with the glimpse of the movie’s villain, a ferocious bear named Mor’Du.   Merida’s father, King Fergus goes to battle with this bear, which results in the loss of his leg, which is replaced by a wooden peg.  Mor’Du manages to escape death on that fateful day, only to be seen at a later date.   

The story picks up steam when Elinor invites the lords of three neighboring clans to present their first born son in a competition of sorts for Merida’s hand on marriage.  It represents an age old tradition of arranged marriages.  This process is to be respected in the kingdom which our characters live.  Elinor, being the queen and Merida’s mother, believes whole heartedly in this process.   Merida, being an independent and adventurous young lady, doesn’t agree with these plans for her future.  This is the central conflict of the film.

Merida and her mother don’t see eye to eye on much of anything.  It is your classic teenage daughter argues with her mother, but in a more genuine manner than most movies use the concept.  Merida wants to choose her own husband or whether or not she even wants one in the first place.  In a nutshell, she wants to take control of her future.   Eventually she goes off to find a way around her predetermined fate.   That leads her to a witch in the forest that assists with the casting of a spell that will change everything for Merida.  Specifically, Merida asked for the spell to change her mother.  This being a movie, you know it doesn’t go as planned.

I’ll spare you the details as to what goes wrong.  To say more would spoil a bit of the movie’s plot.  What I can say is that the movie forces Merida and Elinor to confront their mother-daughter problems.  That is where the heart of the story is.  A lot of classic questions about the mother/daughter  dynamic come to the forefront in a thoughtful manner.    “Brave” handles these ideas how you would expect them to be handled by Pixar.  They do so realistically and by keeping all the characters likable in the process. 

There are two things that make “Brave” stand out as one of Pixar’s best works.  The first is the musical score/soundtrack.  Right out of the gate the music sets the tone of the film as adventurous.   There is a bit of Scottish flare in the score and the songs, which also enhances the experience.    Every bit of music helps push the story forward and even builds the characters, which is everything you’d want from the music.

My favorite aspect of “Brave” is simply how great it looks.  It is likely the best work Pixar has done in the animation department.  It works wonders with the 3D concept.  Only “Wall-E” compares in scope and detail.   Every time a wide shot of a landscape is shown, you can’t help but be impressed.  Most impressive are the smaller details, especially how they animated the simplest of things, like Merida’s hair.  

Ultimately, “Brave” is another hit for Pixar.  It will enjoyable for both the kids and adults.  However, I suspect that the grown-ups will enjoy it a little bit more as they reflect upon all their parental conflicts as they were growing up.  Hell, they may be going through it on the other end of the situation as well and might find some comfort in knowing there is light at the end of the tunnel.

All in all I give “Brave” **** out of 4.

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