Review: Brave / Cert: PG / Director: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell / Screenplay: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell, Irene Mecchi / Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson / Release Date: Out Now
Brave may very well be the most puzzling movie of 2012. Not in the sense that it’s got some kind of fiendish labyrinth of a plot, but more for the fact that this – THIS! – was Pixar’s film for the year. One that happens to be neither amazingly good nor downright terrible, just bland and under-written and rather dissatisfying.
'Tis in bonny auld Scotland that we pick up the threads of what could be any animated movie from the last fifty years. The daughter of a boorish father and overbearing mother, Princess Merida (Macdonald) is due to be wedded to a suitor from another kingdom. However, she's a tomboy who loves nothing more than chasing blue fairies and practising archery, much to the annoyance of her family. Not at all keen on the idea of being married off, she falls out with her mother (Thompson) and meets a witch who grants her the ability to change the Queen's stance on marriage. This, of course, doesn’t go according to plan: her mother is turned into a bear, and bears just happen to be the arch-nemesis of her father, King Fergus. Hoots mon, if only they could put aside their differences and learn to love each other! Well, now that you mention it …
The above synopsis is pretty much all there is to Brave. There is some great slapstick with Merida’s oafish one-legged father (Connolly), and the mother/bear clumsily roaming around the kingdom and trashing the place is worth a chuckle. Really, though, it’s too damn predictable. The plot is off the shelf, there's no middle act, and the peak of the film's fantasy elements is the stuff about people turning into bears (the witch disappears after one scene and no other supernatural beings get a look-in). There was potential here for a rollicking adventure, but truthfully you're better off watching something like Stardust or even Your Highness.
Where Brave does score is in the animation. Nothing groundbreaking, but the animators seem to have finally cracked how to do realistic hair and fur. Were it not for the broad, exaggerated nature of some of the characters, it would feel photo-real. Worst of all, though, this film is borderline offensive to the Scottish; kilts, fighting, incomprehensible language and ginger hair are everywhere and really we would have expected more from Pixar.
After Cars 2 and now this, Pixar are actually now being bested by DreamWorks. Let’s hope this is just a slump and their next few films mark a return to form.
Extras: La Luna / The Legend of Mordu / Brave Old World / Merida & Elinor / Bears / Brawl in the Hall / Wonder Moss / Magic / Clan Pixar / Once Upon a Scene / Extended Scenes / Audio Commentary