Release Date: June 22nd, 2012 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell Actors: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson
ixar has set the bar so high for computer animated features that judgment against them is particularly strict. This works against “Brave,” which is unfortunately a grandly mediocre accomplishment. For any other studio, it might have been enough to be cute and adventuresome, but for Pixar, audiences will demand emotional attachment, resourcefully funny humor, dramatic poignancy, and character development that begets unforgettable personas. “Brave” just doesn’t bring any of that to the table, instead being palatable and pleasant but never groundbreaking or awe-inspiring. It’s hopelessly average – made almost unforgiveable because of the quirky, bounding desk lamp that has become known in the industry as a proclaimer of animated masterpieces.
“A princess strives for perfection,” insists Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), a proper, respected leader trying desperately to curb her impetuous daughter’s mindset. But defiant young princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) wants nothing to do with the games of competition that will decide her suitor from the three neighboring clans of Scottish warriors. Betrothal and a planned life couldn’t be more unattractive to the orange-haired youth who wants to journey into the forest for adventure and archery practice. While King Fergus (Billy Connolly) entertains the visiting lords and their sons, Merida sneaks out and stumbles into the secluded cottage of an old wood carver who offers to conjure a spell that will forever change the queen’s stance on marriage.
As with the trailers for “Up,” “Brave” wisely gives nothing away with the brief, comedic, introductory television spots. But magic, destiny, fate, legends, the breaking of traditions, and the pursuit of freedoms are all involved in the fast-paced world of ancient Scotland. There are also no less than three montages governed by singing; an element generally absent from the stirring orchestral compositions found in Pixar’s more mature ventures. The stereotypical portrayal of Scottish culture feels reminiscent of “How to Train Your Dragon’s” Viking inhabitants, which is to say that the visuals of clothing, sets, and character designs are largely unoriginal. The typical rebellious teen provides laughs, but again creates a sense of the film struggling to relate to audiences. A role reversal of mother and daughter caring for one another is mildly amusing but also derivative of the frequent theme of prematurely being forced into responsibility and action, found in countless other animations.
Although commonly taken for granted, the water effects are spectacular, as are various elemental inventions. Anymore, scrutiny seems pulled in directions other than the stunning imagery that takes innumerable hours and plenty of talent to construct and animate. Alas, the lack of an involving plot negates the splendor of lighting, cinematography, smoke-like wisps, or even Merida’s hair, an impressively buoyant, spongy, carrot-colored mass that is seemingly a character of its own. Comic mischief, silly rudeness, a PG-worthy intensity, and occasionally mirthful dialogue similarly get lost in the resoundingly contrived cure for the curse, complete disregard for closure with the witch, and ignorance to the resolution of Merida’s three brothers’ plight (which is unexplained despite a more than trivial involvement). “Brave” is frustratingly trifling.
– Mike Massie