Thursday, June 28, 2012

Brave




I remember a time when Pixar could do no wrong. Even when people initially criticized them for retreading familiar territory with "Toy Story 3", it turned out to be a unanimous hit. Surprisingly, this was only two years ago. It's baffling to me that so much unfair backlash can be hurled at a studio that has continually raised the bar for quality in both animation and heart-felt storytelling after one misfire. "Cars 2" was, in all honesty, completely uncharacteristic of Pixar. It was totally boring, the dialogue horribly cliched... anyway, this isn't a "Cars 2" review.

The point is, I never lost faith in the studio that has brought me to tears on more than one occasion (nope, I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried during "Finding Nemo", wept in the five-minute montage at the beginning of "UP", and definitely choked up at the end of "Toy Story 3"). The studio is still synonymous in my mind with the absolute personification of quality. I had no doubt that "Cars 2" was a fluke. There's no question that it was made out of greed to capitalize on the explosion of merchandise that the original "Cars" generated. Their next original effort would more than make up for the betrayal that was their previous film. I can only report that I am delighted to be proven right! Brave is an absolute triumph. The animation is the most beautiful I have ever seen. The characters are funny and likable, particularly the protagonist, Merida. She's perfectly portrayed as a head-strong, emotional, and spirited young woman.

One of the best things about "Brave" is the Scottish setting. The voice actors are all native to either Scotland or at least the British Isles, which really transports the viewer to another world, one filled with magic, as the trailer points out. The story, possibly the weakest link for its sheer familiarity, is still very well done. The kicker, the thing that brought me to tears yet again by the time credits rolled, was the emotion wrought from a tense mother-daughter relationship that I completely understood. I have sisters, and I know that turmoil is almost to be expected between teenage girls and their moms. This story portrays that in such a relatable way, and develops it so carefully, that it really is one of the most touching things I've seen this year.

If you've seen the trailers, you still don't know the real plot, something that my mother actually pointed out when I showed it to her a few weeks ago. It is kept intentionally ambiguous, which is why I won't be doing a plot summary of this film. I will tell you that one overarching theme in this movie is the ability and the desire to change your fate, and I feel this is a good metaphor for what Pixar has done with this film. Despite the pundits sounding the alarm that Pixar's time as the pinnacle of animated storytelling was coming to a close, "Brave" proves that the studio isn't going anywhere. I absolutely love this movie and am just a hair away from giving it a full four stars. I give it a very solid three and a half stars.

BRAVE is rated PG for some scary action and rude humor.