It seems ironic that many people say Wreck-It Ralph looks like Disney is going to out-Pixar the studio known for making fun films with great stories. But when the lights came up after Brave, it’s easy to say that Pixar has out-Disney’d the Mouse House with the best princess-focused animated fairy tale ever made. A simple story by Pixar’s standards, Brave is about a young girl rebelling from her family and place in the world while learning just how important it is to respect tradition.
Kelly MacDonald gives life to the Scottish princess Merida who is destined to lead her nation—and must marry one of the kingdom’s other princes to keep the nation safe and strong. But, as rebellious kids do, she runs away and engages in a bargain to “change” her mother’s mind and runs into some unexpected consequences.
The story is familiar Disney but enjoyable nonetheless. There is enough simple entertainment to keep the kids engaged and a story that will keep parents riveted though neither is notably original. The filmmakers fall into the trap of having the characters narrate their innermost thoughts and emotions, rather than playing them out on the screen, which results in a superficial product that lacks emotional resonance.
Nothing stands out about Pixar’s Brave, which may be damning with faint praise a studio renowned for originality and ambitious storytelling. Even the 3D—usually an easy sell for animation—was lacking depth and substance. Despite its ambitious, epic beginnings the film is ultimately a simple fairy tale driven by the relationship between a mother and daughter.
Merida is a strong female protagonist who is still a recognizable free teenage spirit. Her journey is satisfying based on the internal structure of the film and yet I somehow was left wanting for something of more substance from this breezy flick.Brave’s story—down to the rousing final battle—is obvious and wraps quickly, leaving a conclusion that doesn’t quite make sense and yet makes enough sense to move forward since it’s just about the human relationships and not obscure prophesies or ancient history.
A film that opens with a lot of promise leaves the audience satisfied but wanting for more, a disappointing reaction for Pixar. Still, a solid film that will last the test of time, Merida and her clan are a welcome entry into the Disney Princess canon.
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