Friday, July 6, 2012


You can't win them all, I guess.  (Sigh)

Alright, let me begin immediately by saying that "Brave" actually is a good movie.  Its an enjoyable comedy of errors with and was clearly made by people who care.  Also, its a beautiful film in both sights and sound with lots of likable characters.  "Brave" is a nice fluffy movie with a good heart, that can be enjoyed by pretty much everybody... except me.  I guess I could blame false advertising, but I pretty much pieced together the big plot twist from the trailers.  And I knew from the trailers that the tone was going to be silly (they actually picked the very worst jokes to put in the trailers).  I just sorta hoped that it was false advertising.  I expected a very different movie.  So I can't help be completely disappointed and more than a little sad that once again Pixar will not be joining by Best of the Year list.

The trailers for "Brave", especially the early ones, led to believe this was going to be some kind of epic fantasy adventure movie set in the Scottish highlands with a rebellious archer princess hero.  Princess Merida here would go on a magical quest, fight a demonic bear.  I was even wondering from the teaser trailers if Pixar was perhaps going a bit too dark for the kiddies, that maybe the movie would be too serious.  I'm not sure what the plot was in "BlueHighwind's Brave", but it definitely was not... this.  I like to imagine that the movie I wanted almost got made, which was supposed to be named "The Bear and the Bow" and directed by Brenda Chapman, who only directed one movie before this, 1998's Biblical epic, "The Prince of Egypt".  "The Prince of Egypt" is a remarkable movie because it plays the story of Exodus completely straight, without any funny cartoon animals or annoying sidekicks.  But at some point something happened during the production, Brenda Chapman left due to creative differences, and instead stepped-in Mark Andrews, a first-time director but long-time member of the Pixar crew.  Then came a change of title, a change of tone, and there's a good chance that an interesting movie got buried under something far more mediocre.  Of course, this is all speculation and we'll never know for sure.  Wouldn't be the first time the House of Mouse has done this*.  Won't be the last.  I'd like to imagine this could have been a different movie, because I wanted to watch a different movie.

"Brave" instead is a movie that really does not match the promises of its Gaelic soundtrack and amazing Scottish highland scenery.  Instead of "The Secret of Kelles" mixed with "Spirited Away", I got Freaky Friday" mixed with "The Shaggy Dog".  And no matter where you're coming from, that's a hugely diminished storyline.  It doesn't feel big enough to be worth my time.  It feels insignificant, like Pixar could be doing so much more groundbreaking stuff than something so unimpressive.  Yeah, "Brave" works for what its trying to do, but I wanted it to do something else.  There was a lot of potential here for epicness, but instead they went with probably the least epic storyline they could have imagined.  And I can't help but be terribly disappointed.

If you've watched the trailers, you already know that its about Merida, a rebellious princess who wants to "change her fate".  What does that mean?  Well, immediately put away any notions about "dark fantasy" or "fantasy quests" or even "action-adventure", because none of that is here.  As it turns out, Merida wants to change her fate so that she cannot be used as chattel to support the Medieval aristocratic system of forced marriages for political alliances.  Essentially in the Middle Ages, women were objects bartered between clans to bind them together and keep the system flowing.  That's a bit dark, and the movie instead tries to focus on the modern issues of "gee, MOM, you don't understand at ALL!" with door slams and stuff, but there's still a clear moment when you realize that Mom and Dad Monarchs are trying to sell their twelve-year-old daughter for marriage.  The fate that Merida wants to change is to not be married, she wants to continue to have adventures on her horse and shoot arrows.  So she finds a witch to do a spell that will change things and... well... this is where the movie fell apart in a fast way for me.

You know, screw this, I'm going to start talking about something else.  You know what was amazing?  The short at the beginning of "Brave" is called "La Luna", and it is a goddamn masterpiece.  Pixar's shorts previously have always been pretty fun, "Day & Night" was an amazing combination of 2D and 3D animation into a single cohesive whole, and "Presto" was an excellent Loony Tunes-style slapstick battle.  But "La Luna" is something else.  Its stars this little boy who is out on a boat with his father and grandfather, who then take out a ladder and lead him to the Moon.  Turns out the universe actually works a lot like "Super Mario Galaxy", because there are little glowing stars everywhere.  Its simple, its beautiful, its absolutely perfect.  This was up there as some of the best moments I've ever had in a movie theatre.  I wish "La Luna" were a full movie instead of "Brave", because...

...I just feel terrible reviewing this.  Its a total letdown.  My buzz is killed.  Worse, the movie is decent, so I feel like a bully for coming down on it for not being the movie I WANTED.  Because everybody should make movies for ME, right?  I'm such a selfish asshole on this one.  But still, I'm not sure if this movie actually works.

Anyway, the big twist is that the witch's spell turns Merida's mom into a bear.  This is a very awkward thing because the Queen is a very prim and proper lady, and being a bear is really icky.  Worse, the King fought a demon bear some years ago, so now he loves to hunt and kill all bears.  Now Merida and her mom have to comically wander through the woods to find the witch and reverse the spell.  The witch isn't even a villain or anything, she's just comically incompetent and only knows bear transformations.  But the witch does leave a message on her witch voicemail, telling Merida that the curse can only be reversed when "what has been broken has been mended".  I think you see where this is going, right?  Merida and her mom need to have a big hug and tearful stuff, then the Queen will be all better.  So now with forty minutes left in the movie, I already know how its going to end and immediately I start checking my watch hoping that I was somewhere else.

Its all so... low impact.  I guess the Queen's life is at stake and she's the only voice of civilization in the kingdom but there's never really much of an impending threat other than a life of being a bear.  Merida and her mom learn they have a lot more in common, but mostly its hyjinks.  It all feels low impact, like this is just a rather forgettable episode of an animated TV show based off a bigger more impressive movie.  I'm pretty sure there was an episode of "Beetlejuice: The Series" just like this.  I mean, this is the best story they could think up for these characters?  This?  Where are my dark wizards of scheming villains plotting world domination?  Why couldn't it be a problem that could have been solved with a lot of arrows instead of something that needed hugs?  Its lame, man.

That's not to say there isn't great and groundbreaking stuff in "Brave".  For example, there's Merida's hair, which is absolutely fantastic.  As a show-off of Disney/Pixar's unbelievable hair engine, "Brave" beats even "Tangled" in that respect.  If you love Gaelic soundtracks, "Brave" is utterly excellent.  And a lot of the characters are really decent and endearing.  I think even the relationship between Merida and her mom works.  But... not the plot.  The plot is boring!  You need something exciting going on, and a bear-transformation is not exciting enough.

As for winning back Pixar's crowd after the cataclysm that was "Cars 2", this isn't going to pull it either.  It almost feels like all the real talent flocked to the Disney studio and are instead making "Wreck-It Ralph".  Pixar isn't going to be winning anybody over next year either, because their 2013 movie is "Monster University", a prequel to "Monster's Inc."  Yeah, "Monster's Inc." is a fine movie, but did it need a prequel?  Not really.  So I guess Pixar isn't going to be saving the day until 2014, when their dinosaur movie gets made.  But who knows what kind of crap might happen between now and then?  I'm sorry to say, but it appears that for now, at least, Pixar's winning streak is quite truly dead.

"Batman and Robin" is coming tomorrow, because this review kinda took precedence.

Brave fan poster by Michael de Pippo.

* My personal favorite tragic tale from Disney is the story of "Bolt", once known as "American Dog".  It was originally directed by Chris Sanders, a massively talented artist and the director of "Lilo and Stitch", the best Disney film of this entire millennium.  Chris Sanders was having trouble with his strange quirky version of the film, which featured such interesting features as a one-eyed bunny and a radioactive bunny monster.  So the new head of Disney animation, John Lasseter fired him, and instead made the most utterly forgettable movie in the history of animation.  It was Disney's loss, since Chris Sanders would jump ship, going to where all rejected Disney artists end up - Dreamworks - and direct "How to Train Your Dragon", the best Dreamworks movie ever made.  By the way, if "Brave" were more like "How to Train Your Dragon", I probably wouldn't be in such a bad mood right now.


  1. I was wondering when you were going to get to this review. From all the reviews, and from personal experience, I thought you were going to ignore this movie. Yeah it's not bad, but it's not Great either. It's something you that the people at Daycare centers run while the kids are huddled up in one room. It's not too dark, but it's way to kiddie and plays it safe through the entire film. Now if they tried to be a little dark and edigie like Brenda Chapman had planned then this would have been a great film for both kiddies and adults. And by the looks of "Monster U." *Spine Tingling Shiver* Pixir Might be heading the way of DISNEY CORPORATE SELLOUT! WHERE EVERY SINGLE THING IS MONITORED BY DISNEY AND IT HAS TO GO THROUGH A RIGOROUS SCREENING THROUGH THOSE MOMS THAT BITCH ABOUT EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING IN LIFE!!!!!!!*Space echo on "LIFE"*

  2. God i hope pixar does not turn out like george lucas and this is just a short dorkage. Stuff like this happens all the time and most of them recovered except a couple, like one tragic figure.

  3. Pixar have lost the magic because they simply refuse to take risks any more. I mean Wall.E, the best movie by leaps and bounds, shouldn't have worked but it did because the ideas behind it were big and daring, for some reason Pixar feel more comfortable churning out sequels and neutering 'dark' projects for safe family fun. It's a real shame because they used to be so clever and unique.