Good But Not Pixar Great: Brave Review

It’s starting to feel like Pixar is losing some of its creative and genius juices to falling under the typical tricks of animation.  I mean, the streak of 11 great films from Pixar is unmatched from any other major studio (when I say 11 great films, I relate to the industry’s belief, not my own personal opinion.  I’d say 6-7 amazing ones, the rest were really good/great).  Nonetheless, the box office monster Pixar has become is almost a full-on guarantee with the studio fully understanding that they are most likely seeing green from each movie.  But Pixar is great because it’s no focused on how to extend the profits to its widest and farthest margin, but is in the business of storytelling and delivering great and unbelievable films.  But ever since Cars 2, Pixar has shown its vulnerable state, and unfortunately, a different streak has started for the Goliath animation studios, and its not the one that they necessarily want.

Brave starts off as a quick-pace, fast moving piece that I fell in love with right away.  The way it moves in such speed but without forgetting its audience is a grand gesture to Pixar’s ability to tell a story.  And the story is simple but truly mesmerizing and engaging.  Merida, a young princess who lives under the tight-fingered control of her mother, Elinor, wants to break out and live wildly and adventurously.  There’s no doubt that the role and responsibility  of a princess and the eventuality of being queen is not the lifestyle Merida dreams about, nor even remotely cares for.

This entire set piece is where Brave is at its best.  We quickly are introduced to the major characters throughout the film, and without a misstep, we fully accept and understand the relationship that is being portrayed to us on screen.  This is your usual daughter-mother relationship where so much misunderstanding is coherently happening, but nonetheless, it still is attractive.  Set in a grand and majestic Scottish Kingdom, this is great accomplishment for the creative minds to set this kind of story.  Though we may have seen this before, it’s done so well here that we forgive the cliche plot that Pixar usually doesn’t like to follow.  Well, so we may have thought…

Brave moves aggressively into the next major scene, where the hand of Merida is being sought after by the three major clans and their leaders’ sons.  This competition provides absolutely no satisfaction for our lead character, and eventually fights for her own place and life.  This clearly upsets her mother, where an argument leads to our princess running away to far and mysterious places, and leads to a meeting with a wood-carver/witch (typical…).  This is where Brave takes a whole new step, well I don’t think step does justice, I’d say paves way to a whole new road, yeah, maybe that, would fit to what happens after this.  I’m not going to say anything that would include spoilers or ruin the experience (if that’s what you call it) for anyone who has not seen Brave yet, but it does change the fate of not just Merida, but the entire kingdom.

The first half of Brave had me feeling comfortable and relaxed, feeling that Pixar returned to its roots of grand story telling and unimaginable animation quality, but the later continues through the credits.  I may not go as far as to say that the story telling falters and completely goes haywire in second half, but I definitely didn’t feel as if this was some sort of wild and uncharted territory where we are seeing brand new material that will put Pixar back on its righteous place.

It is uncharted, maybe farfetched, but this 180 degree turn will most likely surprise a lot of viewers.  For me personally, it was a little too much.  Not that the idea or the situation was so crazy, I mean, rats cooking in fine dining French restaurants and a house being flown by thousands of balloons to South America is pretty absurd, but this didn’t feel like the appropriate absurd, but more like a cheap tactic that other animation studios use.   Maybe that’s harsh to say, but I saw a lot of this happening other than the main storyline.  Cheap uses of humor, the stupidity of some of their characters, these are things Pixar rarely if not never uses because it’s just easy and unintelligent ways for kids to laugh.  And though I am thoroughly reminded that this is still a “cartoon”, I firmly believe that label would offend the esteemed studio to its fullest degree.

And knowing that it would, it surprises me that it goes into that direction.  But I forgave those moments because I was still fully entertained and loving the first act, and then we are hit with this unreal situation, and well, I kind of sagged my shoulders and sadly sat back into my seat knowing that Pixar didn’t fully recover from its atrociousness in Cars 2.  Don’t get me wrong, I eventually recovered from my small stint of depression and actually enjoyed how this whole story played out, and the messages our very bold and clear.  But it left its damages on me, and I can’t look away.

This is not a negative review.  It’s mostly a positive one.  But I feel somewhat disappointed considering that I was waiting for a comeback.  This film was definitely a risk taking one for Pixar as putting a female lead protagonist is risky even for today’s society, and especially in the film industry.  And put this in an animated movie, wow, you better deliver on this one.  And I think for most of it, they delivered.  But it wasn’t genius on screen.  It was good, maybe great, but not genius.  It’s unfortunate considering Pixar might have done these damages to themselves by doing so much in creating a grand association with their company name that the public expects top notch entertainment that is 10x more than the other animated films that are released.  When you reach greatness like Pixar has, there can’t be any other result except greatness.

Children will love this movie.  Teens will thoroughly enjoy it.  And the adults will definitely be pleased by taking their kids, as was the result in the theater I sat in.  There were great things here.  The triplets were amazing.  One of the funniest acts I’ve seen in film this year.  Our lead character is defining, motivated and deserving put in front and center.  Unfortunately, her level of excellence is not completely matched.  Pixar almost had its comeback complete.  But sadly, it just fell short.

Brave gets 3 stars (out of 5).

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