Ever since 1995’s Toy Story, Pixar has been synonymous with innovation, providing entertaining animated films geared as much towards adults as their kids. Whether you were 8 or 80, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Up were three of Pixar’s most visually stimulating and original films. Unfortunately, Pixar’s latest offering Brave offers nothing more than a stale storyline that rips a page from every other Disney feminist film.
Once upon a time Princess Merida- she’s redheaded so think Ariel from The Little Mermaid but with Taylor Swift’s curls- is set to be betrothed to a visiting suitor but Merida yearns for more than life in the sea of tradition (still Ariel). Merida has an unbridled spirit, is a superb archer and whenever she has a chance likes to seek adventures across the kingdom’s countryside. When Merida learns that the first-born of the kingdom’s leading families can compete for her hand, she decides to break tradition and compete for her own hand. Of course, she wins because what would a female-driven fairytale be if the main character couldn’t do everything a male could . . . and better?
Merida’s mother, furious that her daughter has disrupted the kingdom, confronts her and ultimately throws the young princess’ bow into the fire. Distraught, Merida leaves the kingdom evenutally winding up at a witch’s house. The witch (think a slightly older Ursula without tentacles) promises to help change her fate Merida trades her necklace for a spell that will change her mother . . . into a bear.
In Merida’s early childhood, her family was attacked by the ancient bear Mor’du. Since that time, her father has sought revenge for his lost leg.Merida realizes the implication of her mother being a bear and they immediately seek out the witch in order to reverse the spell. Of course the witch has left but not without leaving Merida a cryptic message explaining what she must do to restore her mother to her queenly state.
Merida and her mother learn empathy and how to relate to each other, eventually seeing each other’s point of view. And everyone lives happily ever after . . . c’mon what did you expect? It’s a fairytale.
Where Brave diverts from the fairytale formula is also its downfall. Throughout the film I kept searching for that comic-relief character and sidekick integral to other fairytale films. The Little Mermaid had Flounder and Sebastian, Snow White had The Seven Dwarves, Beauty and the Beast (to an extent) had Lumiere, Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth- the list can go on. Merida’s horse Angus isn’t given any scenes that would allow him to fill that void.
Brave’s singular character highlight was actually the collective character of Merida’s triplet, troublemaking brothers. Their presence actually adds pizazz to the lackluster story. Like toddlers at that age, mayhem and hilarity is left in their wake whenever they have screen time. Kudos to Pixar for its first heroine but a better story could’ve been crafted from the brothers. Here’s to hoping for a short film featuring the triplets in the future.
Children will enjoy Brave, but adults searching for an original story and the kind of humor that we’ve become accustomed to with Pixar will be disappointed. While Brave is shown in 3-D, it isn’t worth the extra ticket price. There is nothing stunning about the film in 3-D when compared to such films as Madagascar 3, so save the upcharge and put it in your child’s college fund or splurge on some Jujubees. Or go see Madagascar 3 again – you know you loved afro-circus.