Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pixar's Brave in Theaters Now

Brave seems like a different kind of movie for Pixar (the princess theme being more in line with what Disney has always done), but it is still full of Pixar flair and originality. And with scenery out of Scotland, the animation is absolutely beautiful!

In Brave, Princess Merida is a tomboy, much more comfortable on a horse with a bow in hand than in a corset, learning courtly manners from her mother. Her red, unruly hair characterizes her spirit and the spirit of her land: untamed, wild. When the three clans under her father's rule come seeking her hand in marriage, Merida fights back against tradition. But the manner in which she chooses to do so may cost her dearly.

In several aspects, Brave could have ended up a mediocre movie, but unsurprisingly, Pixar pulls it out of that class just in time. I'll explain.

As with nearly all Disney princess movies, there is a witch. In Brave, she is there as a catalyst to the plot and doesn't play a major role. Nor is she the villain. Nonetheless, I wish the movie had avoided the whole witch thing. I understand why it makes sense to use a witch in a movie set in Scotland. The land is steeped in mythology and ancient paganism. But that, for me, makes it almost worse. Anything that approaches reality where witches are concerned bothers me because I know how dangerous real witchcraft actually is. However, I appreciate the way this movie downplays the witch's role and avoids making her a main character. And the way Merida must solve the problem the witch gives her is both more complex and more true-to-life than many Disney movies portray, carrying a strong message about what it means to be family.

I must admit, I really don't like movies where the kid or teen is rebellious and ends up being "right." Disney does this far too often. Without spoiling too much, I think I can say that this movie handles the issue beautifully.

Another problem, as I see it, that comes up in certain movies is the role of the dad. Dads are often given the shaft or made to seem like bumbling idiots while their female counterparts are intelligent and beautiful. Usually, this is done for comic effect, and Brave is somewhat guilty of this plot device. However, one thing I really appreciate about Brave is that the dad is not simply a fool. He's loving and loyal to his family. He's playful when he needs to be and a fierce warrior when he needs to be. In other words, while Merida's dad sometimes fits the overused stereotype, Pixar diverges, as usual, from the norm and creates a more complex character. This is just one example of why Pixar is a notch above anything else in the animation world.

Altogether, I was very pleased with Brave. Granted, it's a more traditional type of story, not as fully original as WALL-E or Up. But, really, there's no new plot under the sun. I'm happy with a good story, and Pixar knows how to give me that. Four stars.

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