VOCAL WORK BY Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, John Ratzenberger DIRECTED BY Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell SCREENPLAY Brenda Chapman (Story), Steve Purcell, Mark Andrews, Irene Mecchi MPAA RATING Rated PG RUNNING TIME 100 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Disney/Pixar DVD/BLU-RAY EXTRAS Blu-ray Disc - 1 Includes:
“La Luna” Theatrical Short
“The Legend of Mor’du” Short
"Brave Old World"
"Merida & Elinor"
"Brawl in the Hall"
"Once Upon A Scene"
Blu-ray Disc - 2 Includes:
“Fergus & Mor’du” An Alternate Opening
"Fallen Warriors Montage"
"Dirty Hairy People"
"It is English…Sort Of"
"Renaissance Animation Man"
"Teasers and Sneak Peeks"
Blu-ray 3D Includes:
“La Luna” Theatrical Short
“La Luna” Theatrical Short
“The Legend of Mordu” All-New Short
I can remember when Pixar Animation represented all that was glorious and extraordinary and, yes, brave about animated feature-length films. For years, Pixar Animation was so dependable that one could barely stand the anticipation built up while waiting for their next feature-length film. With Pixar, even a weak film by their standards was considered a cinematic delight. When they hit a home run, as they often did, Pixar achieved near cinematic perfection. Even when they only managed to get on base, Pixar was unquestionably still in the upper echelon of animation studios.
Then, Disney came along.
I love Disney. Don't get me wrong. I grew up watching television's Wonderful World of Disney and have long been a fan of the studio's cinematic efforts in both live-action and animation.
Disney, however, is inevitably beholden to their stock holders and, as such, it's not too difficult to look within their filmography and see the influence of the almighty dollar in their productions and their marketing campaigns. If we're being honest, even their most compassionate film campaigns feel more than a little calculated.
Pixar, despite having achieved tremendous box-office success, always seemed to rise above the almighty dollar or, at the very least, able to balance both the accounting sheets and their own artistic integrity. Somehow, Pixar has always managed to both make a difference and make a buck.
2011's Cars 2 ended the lengthy string of Pixar's critically praised animated features. While the film was far from a bomb at the box-office, it was the first time that one could look at an animated film with the Pixar Animation label and think Disney.
Now, it's happened again.
Brave isn't a bad film. Brave is a Disney film. Brave has marketing centered around the fact that for the first time a Pixar animated feature has a female protagonist. It's an obvious ploy to attract the young female moviegoer and, in all likelihood, it's a ploy that will actually work despite trailers that don't exactly build the intrigue. Brave consistently entertained me, but the film never completely captivated me despite the usual visual flair by Pixar and also their usual positive, life-affirming message.
I liked Brave. I really did. I wanted to love Brave, though. I wanted Brave to move me deeply like Toy Story 3 or to hypnotize me like Up or to even intellectually stimulate me like Wall-E. It didn't. Brave entertained me, despite a completely wasteful use of 3-D animation, but even with the debacle known as Cars 2 it's simply not enough to be entertained by a Pixar film.
The film centers around Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a young Scottish lass living in a mythical time with her father King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). She lives a rather happy life and the film opens with her being encouraged by her father to explore her more tomboyish tendencies with a lovely wooden bow that she has received on the occasion of her birthday. Her mother, of course, would prefer that she act more like the princess that she is and will be. Before long, she has three delightfully mischievous brothers and becomes even more a slave to her mother's determination to have her raised up as a young lady. When her mother takes it all even farther and offers her hand in marriage to a young man to be chosen from amongst a rather motley trio of young men from related clans.
Merida ain't havin' it. A chance encounter in the forest leads Merida to make an impulsive choice that threatens to permanently alter the course of her life and the lives of those around her.
Her only choice? Um. Be brave, of course.
Brave is an astonishing film to look at, though again the utilization of 3-D animation was a poor choice given the tremendous number of darker scenes that are made even cloudier by the "advanced" technology. However, Brave's directorial team (which also includes women for the first time with Pixar) makes the absolutely grand choice of borrowing from Miyazaki both in the team's approach to our heroine and in the completely enthralling wisps, magical creatures who are given an almost poetic and childlike quality that makes you smile nearly every time they come on the screen.
The film is also filled with wit, humor and moments of true heart. Macdonald is a perfect choice to embody young Merida, her bold and robust vocalizations sweeping along with energy and zest galore. Billy Connolly, as a king who absolutely abhors bears due to an earlier in life encounter, is an absolute hoot filled with cartoonish swagger. Emma Thompson is also top notch, no small task given the incredible variation present within her character. There's simply no words to describe it. You must see it yourself.
Brave utilizes celtic music to perfection despite original songs that are for the most part forgettable, while Steve Pilcher's stellar production design paints an extraordinary portrait of the Scottish landscape. D.P. Danielle Feinberg manages the fine achievement of capturing both action and affection with equally satisfying results. On more than one occasion, Brave appears almost eerily similar to the superior DreamWorks Animation feature How to Train Your Dragon.
Brave is a good film and a film that children will most assuredly enjoy and appreciate. The script is too fundamental and possesses a predictability that is not usually found in Pixar films, but it is a positive predictability filled with positive, heartfelt messages that will not easily be forgotten even by small children. Adults, on the other hand, are likely to be a tad less enthusiastic about the film with its pockets of predictability and occasionally awkward plot device.
By no means the travesty that was Cars 2, neither is Brave the return to form we were hoping for from Pixar. Instead, Brave is merely a good film. For Disney, that's enough. For Pixar, it's hard to not be just a tad disappointed.