Friday, June 22, 2012

Movie Review: Disney/Pixar's Brave

In my household, going to the theater is de rigueur for any Pixar film. The amazing animation absolutely must be seen on the big screen.  The acquisition of the video for home viewing is pretty much inevitable, too.  So this review is coming from someone who considers herself a fan of the studio and just about everything they’ve ever done.

That being said, my comments today are aimed at a very specific audience:  conservative parents of young children who don’t care about spoilers.  If you have older kids or are going to the movie on your own without them, you can disregard at least half of what I’m about to share.  In fact, you may want to skip this altogether and come back after you’ve seen it for yourself.  I’d hate to spoil anything for you!

Today I went to the 12:00pm showing of Brave in glorious 2D, free from the encumbrances of those annoying 3D glasses that make the images dark, and my peripheral vision go crazy. My husband had to work and my eldest son is away at Centrifuge camp, so it was just a mommy/son date for me and Colson, age seven.  We snuggled up together and settled in for a fun couple of hours.

Pre-feature comments:  Can I just tell you how much I love watching the previews for the upcoming Hobbit films?!?  And the Pixar short that precedes the movie is sweet, touching and beautiful.  But on to the movie…

I don’t know what it is about animated movies with female leads:  They are either of the old-school variety, where the girl is a fair damsel in distress and/or looking for her one true love, or she’s a rebellious teenager fighting against the powers that be. Brave’s Merida falls into the latter “modern” category, of course.  Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and The Hunger Games.  But I can’t help but wish for a different motif once in a while.

Merida’s rebellion isn’t completely unjustified—her parents seem to be completely oblivious or intentionally ignoring her true nature, to be a free and spirited girl.  At the same time, as a parent I’m just weary of seeing parents portrayed in this fashion, and princesses always rebelling against them.  At one point, I thought to myself, “I’m glad my sometimes-rebellious preteen son isn’t here right now.  He doesn’t need to see this.”  And fortunately, I think most of the teen angst went over my younger son’s head.  The first thing he said to me as the credits rolled was, “What was that movie about??”  A lot of the content was just lost on him, I think.

As I said to a friend earlier this morning, I don’t care how beautiful the animation is. For me, my enjoyment of a film is grounded in the story.  It’s all about the story.  When it comes to beautiful animation, Brave has it in spades.  It is so gorgeous!  I wanted to get on a plane to Scotland immediately.  And Merida’s hair is almost a character unto itself.  It’s so multi-dimensional and dynamic.  But sadly, I wasn’t captivated by the story.  Yes, the overall theme is wonderful, emphasizing compassion, reconciliation and forgiveness.  Yet somehow it just didn’t hold my interest.  The film relied too much on silly pratfalls, spit takes and occasional potty humor, which is so unnecessary to me.  Do I really need to see a 6-inch line of snot hanging from a child’s nose for half a scene before he sucks it back in again? 

Other thoughts:  There are five bears in this film.  Four are “good” and one is, well, really horrible.  He’s quite a nasty beast, and even gave me the willies whenever he was present. Parents of small children:  this guy may give your kids nightmares.  He’s pretty frightening. I put my arm around Colson whenever the creature was on screen.

Another minor note:  These aspects didn’t offend me in the least; I actually thought they were funny, but their presence took me by surprise.  In one scene, a group of men have to lose their pants, and they walk away, naked from the waist down.  Yes, we see their animated tushies, but still—I was surprised to see it.  Later Merida’s three brothers run around naked as well.  In one scene, a character must literally dive down into a woman’s ample bosom from up above, and we get a VERY close shot of her generous cleavage.  Again, I found these moments to be funny, but some parents might want to be aware of them just in case they’re more conservative than I am.

All in all, I don’t want to give Brave a completely negative review.  The animation is striking, the overall theme of forgiveness and reconciliation is beautiful and the music is lovely.  I was just somewhat unimpressed with it for some reason.   My recommendation to parents is to view this film first.  You may find that your kids can handle some of these questionable moments just fine.  Only you know what is appropriate for your children.  I’d also recommend reading the review from the folks at Plugged In Online. They reiterate some of the same concerns and disappointments that I have.

I’m glad I was able to see the film, and enjoyed going with my seven year-old.  That being said, I’m not going to take great measures to make sure my elder son sees this anytime soon, and I don’t feel the need to own the video. I’m sad to say that about any Pixar film, but that’s where I am with this.  I still hope Brave is wildly successful and that the studio continues on so that they can make great movies. Although they have slightly missed the target on this one, I know there will be many more perfectly-executed stories from them in the future.


  1. Well-written! I appreciate your comments. You should write for Plugged In. Love you!

    1. It's not often that I get a "Love you" in a comment! Thanks, honey!

  2. The first 30 minutes or so had me pumped up like no other but once that big twist in the story happens, it all goes downhill from there. However, kids will love the heck out of this film and you can’t go wrong with them. Nice review Laura.

  3. Thanks for this, Laura. How I wish my (college/post-college-age) sons were still young enough for me to be concerned about these issues.

    As to the portrayal of parents, girlfriend, I hear you! Were they *both* alive in this film? That's something. Disney---and most of my high school writing students, for that matter---makes sure that at least one of the parents is dead!

    And this makes for gripping storytelling? How ... encouraging. :)

    1. Laura:

      Yes, both of the parents are alive in the film. And really, the portrayal of the parents isn't what made the storytelling lacking. It was just so many other things. Oh well.



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