Movie Review: "Brave" by Andy Schopp

Brave (2012)
Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Writers: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, Irene Mecchi
Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson
Run Time: 100 min

The bagpipes sound on the misty hilltop while a herd of Highland cows graze nearby. No, unfortunately this wasn't my vacation I took last week, but it was the setting of the new Pixar movie, "Brave". The movie is set in 10th-Century Scotland and centers around a young princess named Merida. The Queen wants her daughter to be proper and dignified and act like a "lady", while Merida thinks she ought to be able to decide her own fate. She wants to be free to do what she wants; she wants to learn to fight and she wants to be able to marry whomever she wants. This becomes the main conflict for Merida in the movie when the King and Queen organize a gathering of all the clans to let the first born children compete for her hand in marriage. Merida is frustrated and upset and in a firestorm of anger, and in defiance she bounds out of the castle and runs away. This is where she meets the (not necessarily so evil) witch.

Right off the bat, one thing I would like to bring up that I know is on EVERYONE'S mind, where is the Pizza Planet truck!? Well, I could spoil it for you and simply tell you where it is, but that really ruins the fun of the entire game doesn't it? I will only say that YES it is in the movie, and it doesn't even look out of place the way they fit it in, which is amazingly ingenious! Keep your eyes peeled ladies and gents, that's all the advice i can give!

But back to the actual review. First off, how can you not start with the animation in he film? I can assure you, Pixar did not drop the ball when it came to animating this feature, it looks amazing! While a lot of people will simply say they already do amazing so that isn't anything surprising, I say BOLLOCKS! Just because something has been amazing in the past doesn't mean it always stays that way. With "Brave", Pixar literally broke the mold of their previous animated films. The software and concepts they had used in the past just couldn't cut what they were trying to do with the animation on this film. Since it's set in a real life scenario, in a real time, and in a real country, they said they wanted to make it feel as real as possible while still looking like an animated movie. They had to write a very expensive, brand new, software program to handle the clothing and hair of this movie; Merida looked especially fantastic with her fire-red hair exploding in curls. What I'm saying is that you shouldn't go in and just expect excellence every time; notice the amazing progress that continues to unfold in the animated movie industry. Give credit where it's due, and it is certainly due in this instance.

Fergus fights the bear
One thing that really stood out to me in this film: the villain. Such an integral part of any Pixar and/or Disney feature. Sometimes, in secret, we really watch for the villain, when we should actually be rooting on the hero. "Brave" kind of turns the good guy-bad guy formula around on itself in that there is no traditional villain. Going in you believe it to be the witch that's brought up in the trailer, or the bear that the first trailer really focused on. I will tell you now that neither of those characters are the villain. They have a lot to do with the struggles of the protagonist(s) but don't actually work against her/them in a purposefully villainous manner. The true enemy is honestly the doubts and fears and indecisions of Merida and her mother. It is a movie more about compromise and mending bonds than it is about overcoming evil. For this I grant the movie great value because it gives a family movie a much deeper level of emotion and humanity than I ever thought it could.
I couldn't talk about this next part without putting in a spoiler alert. If you don't want to know anything about the movie then don't read this section. Just know that there is a part of this section that I think is important for people to know, since it was my one and only true gripe with the film.


After Merida meets the witch in the woods she is given a cake to change the way her mother thinks so that she can once and for all call off all the wedding "HooHa". After giving her mother the cake it doesn't quite go the way she had hoped; her mother becomes a bear. She retains her mind for two days then by the second sunrise she will become a bear fully, then only bits and pieces of her memories will remain. In theory this is a great plot point. It turns the tables on the mother-daughter relationship and makes the daughter the primary caregiver of the mother so that they can finally see how the other sees it. The way it actually plays out less than enthralling. It's just too damn silly. I know that it's a kids movie and i know that it's an animated movie; what I don't understand is why they had to make the mother look like such a gigantic buffoon! She looks a fool trying to keep her crown on ,walk proper and eat with silverware. It was too silly looking to actually be funny in my opinion. It took me out of what was actually happening in the plot. It was supposed to be heartwarming and make Merida and her mother become closer and truly see what amazing things each of them can do. It just didn't play out that well.

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A stunning shot from "La Luna"

I'd like to close up with saying that it is actually a great watch. While it seems that I may not like just how silly it is, I still enjoyed the movie for everything it had going on. Take your families to see this, or if you are a fan of animation/Pixar movies then go see it by yourself. I think there is enough "grown-up" themes for adults to like it and plenty of childish humor for the kiddos to really get on board. I wouldn't sprint to the theater to see it, but I'd definitely give it a quick walk! Also as a side note, make sure you arrive on time! The short at the beginning of the movie, "La Luna", is FANTASTIC! It almost made me drop a small tear as to how generational and traditional it felt. It really fit in line with "Brave" for embracing all of the emotional concepts that it was going for!