Saturday, July 28, 2012

Movie Review - Brave

On a spur of the moment decision, we took the kids to see Brave. I have to admit that I was probably more excited to see this film than some of the kids (my oldest son almost backed out to stay home and do chores instead…what a choice, huh?). The trailer had me a little nervous as it didn't "feel" the same as some of the other Pixar movies I've loved. It almost had a "Dreamworks" studio feel…which isn't a bad thing since I've enjoyed some Dreamworks movies, but I was worried that it wouldn't be all that I hoped for and expected. So, even though the trailer didn't put forth a whole lot in terms of the overall plot, I went into this film with pretty high expectations just because it's from Pixar.

And hands down, my expectations were met. If anybody else loves Pixar and was worried (as I was) that this film was a departure from their usual magic, put those fears aside. This movie is great.

Before talking about the movie, I want to comment on the "short" before the film. As with all Pixar movies (and more and more on other animated films as well), they had a short cartoon. This one was called "La Luna." It starts with a young boy sitting in the middle of the water with two older men. There are no words but a lot of mumbled grunts and other unspoken language. As the title suggests, the short involves the Moon. Through most of the short it felt like we were balancing between a lovely piece of artwork and silly humor that tried to stop just short of the slapstick humor of cartoon. But then, in the final moments of the short there is a great image that pulls everything together in a surprising way that is absolutely fantastic and makes the whole thing very endearing and special. This one is a sweet and fun showcase of talent.

Similar to the surprising twist in the short, there was a surprise for me in the movie itself. From the trailer, it looked like the plot would be about an outspoken girl who doesn't want to get married because she has too much fun being a warrior boy. She's at odds with her parents (mostly her mother) and sets out in search of a way to change things. That's where the trailer left it….and it left me thinking this might be a Mulan-esque story where she goes off on some sort of adventure (again making me nervous that maybe we'd just have a rehashed story). While that's true, there's more to it than I expected.

The trailer is a bit sneaky. I haven't looked to see if they've released a new, more revealing trailer but I can tell you that the original trailers were somewhat misleading in terms of the overall plot and story arc of this movie. With a couple of brief, disjointed exceptions, I think all of the scenes from the trailer come only from the first half (or less) of the movie. About one-third or one-half of the way through the movie there is a big twisty plot element that makes this movie very different from what I expected. I won't spoil it for you since the surprise is a lot of fun and it makes for a very compelling second half of the movie. I don't think the movie would be any less enjoyable if you know what's going to happen, but the thrill of the reveal is a lot of fun, so I'll leave you to it.


The story is not 100% fresh and unique. In fact it borrows themes and elements from other stories. But it is told in a fresh, humorous and compelling way. The writing and directing is fabulous and keeps the pacing and fun. It was filled with great banter as well as some awesome non-verbal communication. Merida's little brothers never really speak…and yet they are super evocative and funny. Other characters later in the movie also have super non-verbal communication.

Near the very end of the movie the staging of the scene was powerful enough that I looked next to me as Lynette gasped in fear and whispered "oh no" and looked like she might cry. Even knowing this was a children's film, there was enough tension and emotion invoked that she was worried things might all fall apart.

The artwork is superb as is expected from Pixar. Some of the scenery and landscape shots were absolutely stunning and looked almost photo-realistic. There was a scene where Merida and her mother were walking through the forest and at quick glance it looked almost like a live-action movie rather than a cartoon. Still, the colors and palette were vibrant and cartoony enough to maintain the animation aspect, but I was very impressed with the art. The grass. The water. The hair. The cloth. Great work.

The soundtrack was also great. The score is wonderfully engrossing and a lot of fun. They presented a wonderfully Celtic vibe and had some great vocal selections as well (all background…there aren't any musical numbers in the movie).

Over the years I have absolutely loved the Pixar films. I've been a big Disney fan since I was a little kid and enjoy those movies but I have to admit that some of the Disney animated films of the past decade(s) have lost some of their charm and magic. Amid the slight slump from Disney, I feel like Pixar has picked up the slack. There are certainly Pixar films I like more than others and I haven't seen all of them (the only full-length film I haven't seen is Ratatouille) but I really like all of their work and totally love many of them.

As I mentioned I was initially nervous that this film might be a departure from the Pixar magic that I know and love. My fears were unfounded and Brave was as fabulous an experience as I have come to expect and enjoy from Pixar. There are a couple of scenes that might be a little intense for very young viewers…and there was a scene where you see bare male bottoms (as my wife pointed out to the kids, it shows verisimilitude in the fact that there often wasn't anything worn beneath the kilts…not that it was necessary to put it into the movie, but it was some generally tasteful comic relief).

Overall I really had a ton of fun with this movie and look forward to seeing it again. All of the family really enjoyed it (even my oldest who initially didn't plan on coming). If you're on the fence but have enjoyed Pixar in the past, I'm pretty sure you won't be disappointed. If you're not a fan of cartoons and kids movies, this one might just straddle the fence enough between childish and grown up to help you have fun.

4.5 out of 5 stars




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2 comments:

Brian Miller said...

nice..another on the list of ones my fam wants to see...so glad it lived up to expectations...and its pretty cool to see a strong woman character as well...

Paul Hafalla said...

The movie is great but I am wondering why Brave is a must-seen movie?