Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Brave - Pixar's Newest Triumph


Those that know me know that I am a HUGE fan of Pixar.  I've seen every Pixar creation, with the exception of Cars 2, as I didn't care much for the first Cars movie.  It wasn't that it was horrible - I'm guessing it had something to do with the fact that I wasn't an 8 year-old boy.  

If you've been living under a rock, and don't know what movie I am talking about, you can pause reading this and go check out the trailer here:  Brave Trailer #4

Then go see the movie immediately. 

You can come back at that point and read the rest of this post, if you don't want to spoil anything.  If you've already seen it - read on!


I was particularly excited for Brave because of the possibility of a strong, red-headed female protagonist who strove for independence not because of a distant prince from the surface world.  Yes, I'm talking about you, Ariel.  On this front, Brave certainly delivers.

I like the fact that there is not a "love story" entwined in Brave, since it really allows for an exploration of a far more fundamental relationship - that between mother and daughter.  The relationship between Merida and Elinor hits closer to home than I thought it would, and I was glad that the previews for the movie gave nothing away as to this storyline.  Sure, the ending was a little cheesy, but let's not forget that this is fundamentally a movie for children, so it was to be expected.  It gave me the strong urge to go home and hug my mother for putting up with me through all those teen years.

There were some darker moments that I could see bothering younger children, particularly with the bears involved.  They are scary, appear out of nowhere, make loud noises and swipe all over the place.  But overall, I think there was enough comedy perceivable to both adults and children that make this a great family film for all.  Again, I expect nothing less from Pixar at this point.  I think this is one of their strongest pulls as a film production company - they can seamlessly integrate adult and child humor into one film, providing various levels of comedy that continue to entertain even after watching the film for the first, second or even third time.

The animation is, of course, stunning.  I'd expect nothing short of visual mastery from Pixar, and I was particularly impressed with how they rendered Merida's hair and the detail with which they got every single curl.  I didn't see this movie in 3D, but I would be interested in it to see if they captured the same detail and made the 3D "worth it."  (if I didn't have to pay $12 for a matinee ticket...)
The score was also fantastic.  I am now a huge fan of Julie Fowlis, who sang the vocal tracks on the soundtrack.  I read a review that criticizes the score for being very similar to Dreamwork's How to Train your Dragon score.  I don't see this as a negative.  To this day, that is my favorite movie score. 

Brave's certainly had some HTTYD-esque notes to it, but you have to remember that we are comparing Vikings to Scotland.  The soundtrack evoked that imagry and feel without succumbing to stereotypical sounds and instruments.  Patrick Doyle (only the 4th composer to work on a Pixar film) took special care, I feel, to integrate the Scottish-themed instruments that we would expect (particularly bagpipes, which I can't get enough of) into the music rather than using the same sounds in each song.  I'd give the score 4/5 stars, only because I reserve 5 for How to Train Your Dragon caliber.

Lastly, let's look at the Pixar Short, La Luna.  I loved it.  It's not the best short in the history of Pixar, but it was really cute.  The tale of a little boy learning his father and grandfather's trade - on the moon.  It's just heartwarming.  The images were beautiful, and it put a smile on my face to say the least.  A great way to lead up to the movie!

Overall, Brave certainly lived up to my expectations.  It's not the caliber of Up, or Finding Nemo, but it's an endearing tale that looks stunning and is just genuinely fun to watch.  Not too shabby, Pixar.  Not too shabby.

I will eagerly await this one on Blu-Ray, and highly recommend to kids and adults of all ages.

4 1/2 out of 5 Stars.

What about you?  Did you care for the movie?  Did it live up to your expectations of Pixar?

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