It’s not common for moviegoers to rave about a studio. More often than not, people’s interest in a movie boils down to who’s in it (I just looove George Clooney), what it’s about (get this: it’s a hotel… for dogs), or sometimes—in America this is less common—who directed it (Tarantino’s latest splatter flick looks like a lovely way to spend a quiet Sunday afternoon). Yet every time a new Pixar movie hits theaters, people can’t buy tickets fast enough. That’s because Pixar has developed a reputation in the past two decades that is synonymous with quality.
Perhaps that makes Pixar’s stumbles all the more displeasing. Besides its lackluster Cars entries—which everyone assumes were merchandising efforts—Pixar has been solid. And while the release of Brave has been much anticipated, the movie is not up to the Pixar gold standard set and reset so many times before.
Brave isn’t necessarily a bad movie. The visuals are staggering, offering some beautiful Scottish scenery, and the heroine’s flowing red ringlets show a tremendous leap forward in hair animation (if that’s a notable category). The premise has enough promise to draw interest: Merida, a young girl who values her independence, wishes for her fate to change when met with potential suitors and the impositions of her overbearing mother. One can see where Pixar–a family enterprise–was going with this. However, the plot telegraphs quickly following a magical spell, and its subsequent execution never reaches its potential. Brave is too content with a color-by-numbers approach. It’s eerily similar to Freaky Friday, but with more bears.
Now there will be those who say that a male perspective is less valid here, because the movie deals primarily with mother-daughter interplay. That’s of course an invalid opinion, but the themes present may ring somewhat truer with women and girls than men and boys. That does not excuse a generic plotline or a lack of character depth. There are others who will pull the “kid movie” card. That’s also invalid, as Pixar has shown time and time again that it doesn’t make children’s movies so much as masterpieces that are accessible to families.
Again, Brave is not horrible. Rather, it’s a meager outing that doesn’t hold up to the Pixar neo-classics. The kids will enjoy themselves; the parents, not as they have in films past. Brave is certainly better than Cars 2, but that ain’t saying much.
Directed by Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman. Starring Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes. Rated PG. Photo courtesy Pixar.