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?