Friday, July 06, 2012
From the very beginning of Pixar's run when we were first introduced to Woody and Buzz to the silent opening of Up and right down to that heart-wrenching scene in Toy Story 3 where we watched our heroes accept death, Pixar was perfect. They got it.
Then came Cars 2. The original Cars was always the weakest of the Pixar offerings in my opinion. Cars 2 was a glorified toy commercial though. It stunk of commercialism. It represented the opposite of every single virtue that Pixar had fought so hard to establish that it represented.
So now we find ourselves with Brave, Pixar's thirteenth offering. Did the story of Merida, the princess who wanted to change her fate, turn the studio's fortunes around?
Brave, directed by Mark Andrews (after Brenda Chapman left due to "creative differences"), is a perfectly good animated film. It has an interesting story and funny, exciting characters. Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, holds the distinction of being Pixar's first female lead, and she's a great character. Spunky and often immature, Merida is a whirling Dervish of red hair. Her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), nails the spirit of his daughter with his impression of her, proclaiming that she just wants to ride her horse through the woods while shooting her bow.
Merida's vision for her future would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) was set on having her daughter follows the rules of being a princess. This includes marrying a suitor chosen according to the customs of the tribes, something that Merida wants no part of.
I'm going to hold off going further into the plot, as Pixar and Disney did an amazing job of keeping much of Brave's plot a secret. Seriously, what you've seen in the commercials and the trailers is about the first half an hour of the film. I was shocked to learn how much the studio kept under wraps.
That said, Pixar's secrecy still doesn't elevate Brave to the level of its best offerings. Brave is a good animated movie, but it's not a good Pixar movie. It lacks originality. It's missing that spark that WALL•E or Finding Nemo had. Pixar films were once the 800-pound gorilla in the room of animated movies, pounding its chest, reminding you that this is a Pixar film and it damn sure deserves your attention and respect. Brave meekly tiptoes its way through its story, hoping to keep the attention of its audience.
According to Wikipedia, Pixar's next four films are Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur, The Untitled Pixar Movie that Takes You Inside the Mind and The Untitled Pixar Movie About Día de los Muertos. It's early, but these movies sound like true Pixar films. Original concepts (well, except Monsters University, but I love Monsters, Inc. so that one gets a pass) helmed by the studios great minds like Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc. and Up) and Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3).
Brave is enjoyable, but it's harmless. If you miss it, you're not really missing anything. Pixar has always been better than that — and it's high time the studio returned to that standard.