In almost every review of a Pixar film I’ve done for this blog I have predicted that one day their incredible streak of great films would come to an end.  Last year that day came with Cars II, which I didn’t see in the theater but did catch on DVD.  To be fair, if any other company had produced it, it would have been considered mediocre, but since this is the mighty Pixar we’re talking about, Cars II was a sad failure.

Of course bad films are inevitable and the true test of Pixar is how they bounce back.

Brave is their answer.  It is the story of Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald, a medieval Scottish tomboy princess.  Her parents, Fergus, voiced by Billy Connolly and Elinor, voiced by Emma Thompson, are desperate to marry her to a prince of one of the surrounding clans to cement an alliance.  An archery tournament is held to determine who is the most worthy prince to be her husband.  Merida enters against her parent’s wishes, and since the crop of princes in the area is sadly uninspiring, wins.  After arguing with her mother, Merida runs away and brings an ancient curse upon her family, which she must then go to great lengths to remove.

Besides being the first film to be released after a notorious flop for the company, Brave has other firsts as well.  It is the first film to have a female protagonist and to be aimed largely at girls.  And it is the first Pixar project to be at least co-directed by a woman.

Brave is not a complete success but it is a pretty good movie.  Like the best Pixar films it is more of a drama with comic relief than an outright comedy.  The gags they do have are more hit than miss.  Even though the setting is an unusual one, this is a very conventional story with an empowerment theme that children unfailingly respond to.  Some of the moments are very touching.  There is also a lot for adults here. 

And like all other Pixar films Brave is visually stunning. 

The impressive thing is how easy they make this look.  Brave is far from Pixar’s best but it is a tightly constructed story, well-paced and written.  Any other animation studio would count it as one of their best efforts.

I always knew Pixar would stumble one day, but I also never doubted that they would bounce back.


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June 2012
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