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.