Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Brave Review

I have a very iffy track record with Pixar films.  I've seen a good portion of them, and for the most part, I agree that they're fantastic films.  For some reason they just enter my "Top 10" lists or are anywhere near my favorites from their respective years.  I really can't say why this is.  Toy Story 3 is a masterwork for narrative and animation...but it just doesn't grab me like other films.  I'm more of a Dreamworks Animation kind of guy (but that's a whole 'nother discussion).  I was intrigued, to say that least, by Brave, Pixar's latest effort.  I say "intrigued" because the trailers didn't really show much of anything.  I went into the film with virtually no expectations and came out feeling very perplexed.  The issues that I have with Brave lay within its narrative arc, meaning that a full spoiler warning is in effect.

***Full Spoiler Warning is in Effect***

There is quite a bit to enjoy about Brave...at least in the first act.  I can safely say that I was nothing but mesmerized in the opening moments of the film.  The animation wizardry on display was breathtaking; vast, luscious scenery and gorgeous vistas were thrust deep into my corneas.  Then along came Merida, the young heroine and our lead character, with her incredible hair.  Yes, her hair.  Merida's hair animation was on another planet.  I honestly could've just watched her hair bounce around for hours.

Beside the slick animation and the first act there wasn't all that much that I enjoyed.  The story began with Merida rebelling against her mother's betrothal-infused wishes (Merida is being forced to have three suitors compete for her affection) to the point where she runs away in anger.  The film became pretty dark, pretty quickly.  And I dug it.  Merida runs into an entertaining witch and blah blah blah she wishes that her mother, Elinor, changes her mind about Merida's impending marriage.  Elinor is transformed into a bear, one of which is the mortal enemy of Merida's father, Fergus.  This is the type of conflict that is awesome to watch unfold and had tons of potential.  Unfortunately this aspect is never really explored, save for the final few moments of the film.  Rather, Brave turns into a goofy, slap-stick comedy rather than dark adventure film.  And that is my main complaint with the film: too much physical comedy and not enough heft in terms of events or storytelling.

Merida has two days to turn Elinor back into a human or the transformation becomes permanent.  This is the only real driving factor behind the second and third acts.  Instead of fixing the problem, which Merida kinda knows how to do, they decide to go fishing and goof around quite a bit.  If I were in that situation I wouldn't be messing around in the woods - I would hightailing it back to the castle to try to reverse the situation.  Perhaps if Fergus had been pursuing them throughout the film, not knowing that his wife was a bear, a greater sense of urgency and tension would've been placed upon our leads.  Instead, the story meanders along till it culminates in that very chase scene that unfortunately lasts only for a minutes.

There were bits and pieces of Brave that I enjoyed quite a bit.  The problem is that they're peppered throughout the mediocrity that is the slap-stick comedy portion of the film.  Merida's three little brothers were an example of good slap-stick; they're thrown in here and there to fantastic comedic effect but aren't the crux of the film.  They were probably my favorite aspect of Brave (outside of Merida's hair).  The three rival clan leaders that bring their sons as tributes to win Merida's heart were awesome as well and were quite entertaining to watch bicker amongst themselves.

I desperately wanted to like Brave more than I did.  I felt like it had the potential to be something so much more than what it was.  I had envisioned a grand adventure film with Merida discovering who she is and what she wants on a journey - instead we got a relatively small-scope slap-stick comedy with some darker (and much cooler) moments sprinkled throughout.  Its by no means a bad film; it just doesn't live up to Pixar's high bar (set by the likes of Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3).  I'd recommend it anyone who enjoys Pixar's work - you'll probably enjoy it on some level.

 Brave is a woefully disappointing effort from Pixar that will please the kids but not the adults.

The Bearded Bullet. 

No comments:

Post a Comment