Brave Postmortem (Spoiler-Free)

Help! Her head's being mauled by a carrot monster!

When it comes to Pixar movies, my hierarchy goes something like this:

  • Amazing: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up
  • Great: All three Toy Stories, Ratatouille, Wall-E
  • Pretty Good: A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc., Cars
  • Didn’t Actually See It Because the Trailers Looked So Lame: Cars 2

I just saw Brave last Saturday. Where does it fit into the Grand Order of Pixar Movies? I’d say somewhere between Great and Pretty Good.

First, the “Great” stuff. The visuals, of course, are just as impressive as ever. You can see that from the poster. Apparently Pixar had to write a whole new graphics engine to handle the explosion of carrotness going on at the top of her head. Whatever they did, it worked, and not just for the curls. One of the stars of this movie is the Scottish landscape, with its moody forests and wide, gorgeous panoramas. It wouldn’t be a Pixar film without stunning graphics, and Brave is no exception.

Another Pixar staple: Brave is bursting with energy, packed with colorful, vibrant characters, all tugging the story in their own direction. There’s Princess Katniss Merida herself, her kind but disapproving mother, her giant of a father, a witch, and (ahem) at least one bear. You’re never sitting around waiting for something to happen. The whole story moves at a breakneck speed.

Most surprisingly, Brave may be the funniest movie Pixar’s ever made – and that’s saying something. I was laughing out loud practically from beginning to end.

So what drags it down into “Pretty Good” territory?

For one thing, not all the places I laughed were supposed to be funny. Some of the giggles came at allegedly dramatic moments, where the script leaned a little too heavily on cliches. I understand this is an all-ages movie, so you’re supposed to Learn A Life Lesson, but it doesn’t have to be pounded in with a Life Sledgehammer. The idea of a princess who breaks the mold, rejects her prince, and saves herself, is not exactly new (see: Tangled and a thousand others), but Brave acts like it is. A little more creativity would’ve helped certain spots in the script.

A larger problem is that, for all its energy, Brave never really takes off. The heroine’s just as courageous as the title suggests, but for all that, her biggest crisis throughout most of the movie is – gasp! – that her mom wants her to do something she doesn’t like. Yes, some real danger’s thrown in toward the end, but it feels sort of incidental. Even the villain – the aforementioned bear, lurking between the B and the R in the movie poster – turns out to be kind of lame, despite a needlessly elaborate backstory.

Merida keeps saying she wants to be free, wants to make her own fate. But she doesn’t seem to have any particular goals in mind, beyond rebelling against her mother. There’s just not a lot to get fired up about.

All of which is to say that Brave, while not exactly earth-shattering in its brilliance, is still a pretty fun way to spend an hour and a half. Monsters University, on the other hand – the sequel to Monsters Inc. whose trailer we saw beforehand – I have my doubts.

What movies have you seen lately?

9 responses to “Brave Postmortem (Spoiler-Free)

  1. It’s funny cuz you mentioned a million other movies that Brave was like. The one that kept sticking in my head was Little Mermaid. I mean a witch, Spoiler warning—Transformations, A time limit, the transformed party unable to speak! Haha, but I thought it was really good. A little cliche like you said, but I really liked the whole Irish/Scottish thing they had going on and the music was as always impressive.
    Btw Carrotness is not a word. Maybe it, like skiey, will become one over time. But let’s hope not.

  2. Haven’t seen it yet, will today maybe. But I’ve been so disappointed with fantasy movies with female leads lately. I hope this won’t be another one.

    You put Up as Amazing? I’d put it as Pretty Good (well the first part of the movie, I’d put amazing, but I couldn’t stand the kid or the bird) and Wall-E and Toy Story 3 as Amazing. But it’s all subjective so…

  3. I think the only Pixar movie I’ve seen is Wall-E, which I adored. I wonder why I’ve never seen the others. Well, one more thing to put on the list of things to do.

    I go back and forth on this one. The trailer looked fun, but I think this may fall into the “wait for the DVD” category.

    The last movie I saw (in a theater) was Prometheus, which was flawed but worth seeing (and worth seeing in a theater rather than waiting for the DVD). I had trouble seeing it the first time and saw The Avengers instead (which would have been just as good on DVD). I wrote about them on my blog:

  4. I’m looking forward to this movie, but probably not enough to shell out the $50 it would take to take the fam to the movies to see it. I’ll wait until the DVD comes out, thanks.

    I found your Pixar movie ratings interesting, seeing as how I didn’t like Up at all, and I thought Toy Story 2 ad 3 were both amazing. (I wasn’t overly impressed with Wall-E either, but that may have been because I felt like it was hitting me over the head with a Message and by the end of the movie I wanted to go destroy some nature in pure protest.)

    Also, I recently (like, three weeks ago) saw Cars 2 on DVD. Then I watched it a second time. And then a third. I thought it was great. But then, I didn’t go into it with any pre-conceived ideas, either. I think the thing about Cars 2 is that it’s not actually about Lightning McQueen. He’s a plot device that allows the other characters to move from place to place under the explanation of “Lightning McQueen is participating in a World Grand Prix”, but it’s not a racing movie or a hero movie. It is, instead, an old-school family-friendly spy thriller.

    But that’s just my opinion. 🙂

    • Jo!! Glad to see you back and kicking around the Interwebs. 🙂

      As I said, I never actually saw Cars 2, so I can’t comment. Some people tell me it was great, others say it was terrible. I may get around to it one of these days.

      With such wildly varying opinions just in this tiny sample, I can only imagine how frustrating it must be for the people actually making the movies…

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