Review: “Brave”

I love Pixar films.

Great animation, compelling storylines and wonderful characters. What’s not to love?

Aside from the mediocre “Cars 2,” the studio that can do no wrong has been pumping out hits for years. The stories themselves are diverse, ranging from the bottom of the ocean to the ends of space.

Pixar’s latest film, “Brave,” takes on the story of the princess of a mythical Scottish kingdom. Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), the daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), struggles with the constraints of life as royalty. Instead of climbing mountains and honing her archery skills, Merida is forced to endure hours of queen preparation.

The premise of a daughter who disagrees with her parents is not exactly new, nor is the theme of arranged marriages in those disputes.Where the story takes this setup is what makes “Brave” a little more unique. I won’t spoil too much about that part of the film, but a magic spell is involved.

Pixar is known for producing near-perfect animation and this latest effort is no exception. The film opens and closes on beautiful landscapes. In between, there are wispy blue spirits, wild bears and Merida’s flowing red hair. From start to finish, “Brave” features some of Pixar’s best animation.

One of my biggest worries in the early parts of the film was that Merida would become a whining little girl who pouts until she gets what she wants. If you’ve seen “Flicka,” think of the way Alison Lohman’s character defies her parents over and over again until she gets her way and the parents are totally cool with it. I quickly learned that Merida is a much better character than that and I, along with parents of impressionable children, had nothing to worry about. In fact, aside from a scary scene or two and a little nudity (You could see worse on an episode of Spongebob), parents should have very little to worry about.

Merida’s parents are also pretty good characters. Fergus is almost a little too similar to Gerard Butler’s Stoick the Vast in “How to Train Your Dragon,” but his relationship with Merida provides enough of a difference. Elinor, on the other hand, is given nearly as much material as Merida for her character to grow throughout the film.

As good as “Brave” is at times, it’s lacking in something I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps its due to the film being a little less funny than most Pixar films (not that it needs to be). Or maybe it’s because the supporting characters are underused or less memorable. The conclusion of the film and its main conflict also seems to be a bit rushed, so that could be it.

Whatever it is, something is holding the film back from being as good as “The Incredibles” or the “Toy Story” franchise. The problem could even be just that I am comparing it to other Pixar films that have grown dear to me.

Since I’m comparing it anyways, I’ll share where I would rate it with other Pixar films. On a scale of “Wall-E” (my favorite, tied with “The Incredibles” and closely followed by “Up”) to “Cars 2,” I would put this film smack dab in the middle between “Monster’s Inc” and “A Bug’s Life.”

“Brave” may not be the best film Pixar has ever offered, but it shows a maturity in filmmaking and animation that has me excited for what comes next.

Grade: B

Happy viewing.

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