While I’ve never been disappointed with a Pixar movie in my life, some have come relatively close to disappointing. Am I saying Brave is one of these films? No. Did I say that as a hook for the beginning of this review? Yeah, kind of, but don’t feel used! It’ll be alright. Brave, while not the most original film I’ve ever seen, is a very cute movie with enough heart to draw the sentimental types, and enough Pixar charm to draw everyone, because let’s face it, Pixar doesn’t make bad movies. A mistake I made early on in my critique of this film was the unfair comparison that I had drawn to the 2003 Disney film, Brother Bear. As I have said multiple times in my history of reviewing movies, each movie should be reviewed on its own and not compared to another movie, so I will do my best to set aside any preconceptions that I have placed on this film unfairly and just do my job.
First off, casting wasn’t a huge deal for this film, it being animated and all. Of course, the voices are still incredibly important in setting the tone of this film, so the casting can’t be overlooked. There were some surprisingly big names in this list of voices, populated by ones such as Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, and Craig Ferguson. Kelly MacDonald, the voice of Merida, did a nice job bringing a mix of teenage entitlement and a more grown up definitive sound that brought that independence struggle front and center in this film. Billy Connolly as her father, and Emma Thompson as her mother were well placed, and the chemistry between the characters, while not the easiest to distinguish in an animated movie, was pretty well displayed throughout. The emotion in their voices was evident, and they did an excellent job bringing it out through the duration of Brave.
The plot is where things get tricky for me. This film’s plot feels incredibly recycled to me, but once again, that is a preconceived notion based on the eerily similar Brother Bear from 9 years ago. The only exact similarity is the whole bear thing, and you can’t base a whole critique on one instance. While this plot is a bit recycled, it doesn’t reuse it in a way that would make it feel stale. In fact, in many ways, Pixar has managed to add more heart in this film than could have ever been achieved in Brother Bear. The whole point of this film is independence, and essentially, it’s a coming of age tale. There cannot be a single person that sees this movie that can’t relate to an element of it, even though it is set in Scotland. That’s the great thing about Disney Pixar; they have a way of making every member of the audience find a character with which to relate. Even the parents can see through Elinor’s eyes as she learns a lesson just as valuable as Merida does. The value of trust and compromise in relationships is a big part of this film, and it is depicted very well.
Visually, this film was pretty much straight down the middle of amazing and horrid. It was pretty average. With the wealth of knowledge in the animation department hitting a glass ceiling, they can only go so far with how realistic it looks. The 3D was certainly nothing to die for, and I wouldn’t suggest springing the extra for 3D simply because it doesn’t add anything to the film like Spider-Man or Prometheus does. I shouldn’t condemn this film visually, however, because it isn’t horrible. For what the intended result was, this film is good, but the visuals just aren’t stunning. I could forgive the lack of awe-inspiring shots if it weren’t so obvious in certain places that they were aiming for them (a certain waterfall scene comes to mind.) I can’t say I’m disappointed by the visuals, because I didn’t go in with high expectations, but I feel that Pixar didn’t quite hit the mark that they were so blatantly aiming for, and that is saddening. Pixar has always been known for two things: great movies, and great graphics. The first hasn’t been tarnished by this film, and while the second hasn’t been either, it certainly doesn’t hit the bulls-eye.
Ultimately, if you’re looking for a good family movie to see on a day that you don’t have prior plans, or even just a time killer while you’re waiting for something, this is a perfect film for you. It is very relevant to a large number of people, and it manages to encompass a great variety of topics within its short 100 minute run time. However, do not dish out the extra cash for 3D, because it truly isn’t worth it. The casting and the plot both are valid reasons to see this though, as it is a solid film with enough laughs to take your mind off things, and easy enough to relate to. For the kids, the teenagers struggling for some independence, and the parents with teens that are getting to be that age, this is an excellent film, and I recommend you see it together. Hopefully it will clear up some things between you and allow you to reconnect while you’re at it. For everyone else, take it or leave it.