Now Playing: Pixar’s New Red-Headed Stepchild

If you’ve heard any of the rumors about Pixar’s problematic path to ‘Brave’, then you should already know what to expect – a kid’s movie that’s far from perfect. I hadn’t paid much attention to the rumors, but having seen it now, the movie itself supports them. ‘Brave’ is good, but it’s a messy princess flick that feels more like a lesser Disney picture than something by Pixar.

Word has it that the Brenda Chapman (‘The Prince of Egypt’) was originally hired as the sole director of ‘Brave’, but that Pixar didn’t like what she was doing with it and let her go. Supposedly, Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell were then brought in to take over and clean it up. If this is true, it makes sense. ‘Brave’ bounces around in story and tone (as ‘Hot Rod’ would put it) “like a beach ball at a Nickelback concert.”

‘Brave’ begins telling the story of young Scottish princess Merida, who in many ways is just like her fiery red hair – wild, uncontrollable and 100% unlike her mother Elinor. The first half of the movie is all about Merida’s mother trying to contain the girl’s tomboy-ish spirit, getting her to act like a typical princess. What gets the ball rolling is when her mother pulls the ‘Aladdin’ card and reveals that Merida must be married to one of three goofy suitors. We meet these characters and see Merida rebel against her arranged marriage, only then catching a glimpse of what ‘Brave’ just might be about.

Merida wants to change her fate and believes that the only way to do so is to change her mother. When unexplained beckoning “wisps” lead her to a witch’s house (that clearly rips off the look of Bag End), Merida learns of a spell that can change her mother for good… or bad. Around the halfway point, we finally learn what it is, then we get into some wacky shenanigans. We learn how to fix things and, voilà, it’s over. Once the actual plot enters the story, it comes to a quick and all-too-easy resolution.

While ‘Brave’ tries to capture the heart and soul that’s found at the core of all Pixar titles, it never strikes the chord that, say, ‘Up‘ hits. It relies way too much on un-Pixar-like humor – meaning the cheap stuff that Disney, DreamWorks, Fox Animation and every other animation company that’s not Pixar use. In other words, naked animated butts, cleavage gags, belching and so on. It’s disappointing to see a brand like Pixar rely solely on this type of content for humor.

On top of that, ‘Brave’ is overly predictable. Sure, it’s a kids movie, but did you see ‘Toy Story 3‘ going down the path that it took? Did you predict that movie turning so dark? Did you expect to find Woody and his gang on the brink of death, accepting their doomed fates? No way. But you do see exactly where ‘Brave’ is going – even the contrived bits that inexplicably tie Merida’s story with one that makes no sense and serves no purpose.

It may sound like I’m bashing ‘Brave’, but that’s only because Pixar is better than this. Really, ‘Brave’ isn’t that bad. It’s actually better than 90% of the other non-Pixar animated movies out there. But it’s still far from the high standard that the Pixar brand has been known for.

Rating: ★★★☆☆


  1. Drew

    I saw this at an advance press screening about 10 days ago. Some of the criticisms that Luke points out are accurate. However, it’s certainly a better film than he says it is.

    Luke talks about how, “it’s far from the high standard that the Pixar brand has been known for.” That’s an extremely misleading statement. ‘Brave is better than ‘A Bug’s Life’, ‘Cars’, ‘Cars 2’, and at least as good as ‘WALL.E’ (it’s miles better than the second half of that film).

    So, how exactly does it not live up to Pixar’s high standards, when it is positively better than many of their previous films?

    • Drew, why are you asking my to explain my own personal and subjective view when I clearly state it in my review?

      Why does it bother you so much that I don’t have your opinion?

      I’m glad you really liked it. That’s why movies are made – for people to like them. Although we don’t see eye to eye, I’m literally happy that people like it. I wanted to love it, but didn’t. So I’m happy that others can. I expect a lot from Pixar. They didn’t meet my expectations.

      Like I said, “‘Brave’ isn’t that bad. It’s actually better than 90% of the other non-Pixar animated movies out there.”

  2. JM

    When do we stop calling these Pixar movies, and start calling them Disney movies?

    Pixar is becoming the kiddie version of Jerry Bruckheimer Films.

        • The emotion in ‘Brave’ sneaked up on me at the end of the movie. I was expecting it, but I felt it.

          It’s fun, just for a younger audience really.

        • I disagree. While Tangled was indeed an outstanding movie and had great heart, I certainly felt that way in Brave. Remember, Merida is not one for namby-pamby heart stuff. She’s an adventurous tomboy and doesn’t have time for that sort of stuff. When she realises what’s really happening as a result of the spell she purchased and sees what could be, I feel the emotion and heart she put forth was genuine. She comes to terms with how her mother is and what she intends for her daughter, and when she appeals to her mother not to let the spell overtake her and TRULY change her, I felt every ounce of emotion Merida felt.

          But I also agree that this film has plenty of silly laughs in place of the usual Pixar magic.

  3. Didn’t think ‘Brave’ was great, but thought it was decent enough. It is definitely geared towards a younger audience and lacks that emotional connective tissue that connects movies like ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Ratatouille’. I still had fun with it though, and thought that the last 20 minutes or so were well done. 3 stars is fair. Might go as high as 3 1/2, but that’s it.

  4. Drew

    It’s 3.5-4 somewhere right in there. Luke forgot that many other Pixar films have resorted to similar humor. And like I said before, it’s better than he gives it credit for.

    You’re correct when you talk about how it lacks the emotional core of ‘Toy Story’ or ‘Rattatouille’, but ‘Rattatouille’ is a flawless 5 star master work, and ‘Toy Story’ is pretty close to being perfect as well. ‘Brave’ sits comfortably in the middle of the Pixar pack, and it’s better than any animated film that has been released since ‘Rango’.

    • JM

      Better than ‘The Secret World of Arrietty’?

      ‘The Pirates! Band of Misfits’?

      ‘Kung Fu Panda 2’?

      ‘Puss In Boots’?

      ‘Winnie the Pooh’?

      ‘The Adventures of Tintin’?

      ‘Chico & Rita’?

      ‘A Cat in Paris’?

      ‘The Dreams of Jinsha’?

      ‘Alois Nebel’?

      • Strange that you should mention ‘Tintin’, Jane. You stated before that you have no intention of ever seeing it, not even for $1.

      • I loved Tin Tin, amazing animation and just an all around great adventure movie, reminded me more of Indiana Jones than Crystal Skull did, just had the feel and tone down pat.

  5. Drew

    ‘Chico and Rita’ is on par with it. It’s better than all of the rest of the titles on that list. Although, I’ll admit that ‘The Secret World of Arriety’ is close.

  6. Drew

    By the way, I got the ‘Chico and Rita’ blu-ray from Europe about a month ago. It was only about 15 USD, including shipping. Well worth it for anyone interested, that doesn’t want to wait until September.

  7. Drew

    It doesn’t bother me at all that you don’t have my opinion. I was merely stating that it’s a better film than you give it credit for. How does this, in any way, mean that it bothers me that you don’t have my opinion?

    When I asked how exactly this film doesn’t live up to the high standard that Pixar has established, I’m asking you how that statement could possibly be accurate when ‘Brave’ is better than at least a few of the other Pixar films.

    You even seem to contradict yourself and get confused in your review. I thought I would give you a chance to explain yourself and give clarity to some of your confusion.

    You spent the entire review bashing the film, and steering the review towards a 1 star or less rating, and then you copped out at the end and essentially said, “It’s not as bad as I’m saying it is.”

    Again, not sharing my opinion doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I never implied or said that it did. I don’t know where you got that idea. I just wanted to open up the table for you to alleviate some of your conflicted feelings about it, and clarify some of your contradicting remarks.

  8. Drew


    I thought your inclusion of ‘Tintin’ was peculiar as well. You’ve been very upfront about your disdain for that film.
    Care to elaborate?

    • JM

      A few weeks ago, my 7-year-old daughter randomly asked to see ‘Tintin.’

      So I netflixed the blu-ray. She fell asleep halfway. I actually disliked the movie more than I was anticipating. I just couldn’t get past the noses.

      Since none of my kids are showing any interest in ‘Brave,’ I’m hoping that I can safely never watch it. As you know, I hate all the Pixars.

      On the loving side, this week my kids and I started reading ‘A Princess Of Mars.’ I found the hardcover with the Frazetta art.

  9. How many bad (‘Cars 2’) or pleasing, but mediocre (‘Brave’) films does Pixar have to make before we stop comparing them to the EARLY them?

  10. Drew


    EXACTLY! Thank you. Aren’t we all well aware that their standards have diminished?

  11. Cars is my favorite as many around here know, I’ve watched that thing so many times, I own Cars 2 but it was pretty mediocre, not to the point of being so bad like everyone else seems to think (I still dont understand the disdain for Cars, but we’ve talked enough about that and I’ll defend it till I’m dead ;))

    So I’m not really sure how Pixar could ever make a BAD movie, the worst (Cars 2) still was decent IMO and I’ve enjoyed every other one of their films a whole bunch, I own all of them except Bugs Life (just havent got around to getting it yet) and they are some of my favorite films. So I highly doubt Brave is going to turn out as bad as you say it is (even though its not that bad?)

    Other reviews I’ve read have put it up there with normal Disney princess fair like Little Mermaid, which IMO is great, Little Mermaid is my wife’s favorite Disney film and its up there on my list as well, so a Pixar take on the tried and true Princess type story works just fine for me 🙂

  12. What’s funny is that this movie seems more like a Disney Animation Studios title whereas ‘Wreck-it Ralph’ coming out later this year seems more like something Pixar might do. Maybe the two animation studios played swapsies this time around.

  13. T.J. Kats

    Wreck-it Ralph looks great. The bad guys anonymous type scene with all the other bad guys is so funny.