Sunday, August 26, 2012

Brave - A Pixar Film Review by Robert Steven Mack

Originally titled "The Bear and the Bow," this "Brave" was something unexpected for all of us in the family. "Brave" is Pixar's newest creation and is now in theaters. I remember reading up about the movie three or four years ago, along with another entry that Pixar was planning to produce - "Newt." "Brave", along with its cast, title, etcetera have fully emerged into the form of a powerful film that Pixar can be proud of. Of course, no one knew quite what the film would turn out to be. The story wasn't about some weird civilization unseen by man, nor did it have the wacky anti-heroes, heroes, villains, and heroines. Yet, we've seen this time and time again, brought to us and displayed in the most ingenious ways in the "Toy Story" films," Cars," and its action-packed sequel (different in tone than that of the comedy-drama of the original), "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo," "A Bug's Life," and "Monsters Inc.". A few times Pixar has come up with something a little different - and perhaps cliche-shattering with the futuristic masterpiece "Wall-E" and the adventurous "Up." Similarly to those films, Pixar has created an odd-ball with "Brave." Somehow this one is even more ground-breaking than the latter two I mentioned. Not to get me wrong:  every film produced by Pixar so far, from their first wonderkind, 17 years ago, each and every film has been a treat for the imaginations of billions of fan! Each Pixar film has been unique, witty, creative, and well-rounded. This time, however, Pixar swallowed a huge mouthful (for not the first time either) but truly managed to create something brilliant. So, for the twelfth time in the past three decades, the world would wonder what the quirky and unpredictable master-minds of technology and pure imaginative story telling would concoct.

To begin with, "Brave" is darker and more grinding than the other Pixar movies. It evolves before our eyes on a slightly more mature level; this is clear from start to finish. The animation, a wonder of a rare beauty, displays the rugged Scottish hills and country-side of long ago, capturing the viewers with an essence of true submity. Scotland, a land of mystery that invites you to find your destiny, the 3D (though I was never a particular fan of the 3-dimensional world) breaks the barriers of imagination!

The audience is immediately introduced to a small but spirited red-headed girl (the name of which I will not give away for I do not intend to spoil it for you) who has been told of magical forces leading the seeker to his or her inevitable destiny. Fast-forward. Years later, she is a princess with a fun-loving but one-legged king for a father. One leg was chewed off when fighting a mystic bear.  Add three mischievous triplets for younger brothers and a mother who expects her to behave like a princess. A rift comes between her relationship with her mother when she is expected to marry one of the not-too-desirable princes from neighboring kingdoms. Of course, she takes things into her own hands, leaving her and her mother to fight - and, in the heat of the moment, do things that both would later regret. When out riding, she comes upon a witch's house whose inhabitant grants her help... leading to folly when her mother is turned into a bear, identical enough to the one that took dear old dad's leg!

...And so unfolds an adventure of triumph and adventure. Full of flawed-but-good-natured characters, mythical sidetracks, and enough wit to build up a well-rounded, "Brave" is a rousing motion picture that shimmers in Disney's fairy-tale tradition but aided with Pixar's innovative approach to film-making. Again, it is a fairy-tale with a more mature, darker tone, which is a breath to feel and is obvious to any viewer. Its beautiful, traditional Scottish music and brilliant score accompanying the ride underscores it as a story worth listening to. Curiously, "Brave" is not much of a romantic love story of any kind - quite baffling. Indeed, it felt as if the actors and actresses just changed their minds about that one. It is just a very nice, traditional and occasionally humorous story. Indeed, no "happy ever after" was needed!

As for me, I was so impeccably glad and relieved, "Brave" wasn't one of those pointlessly oppressed-female-rebel shenanigans about some bloody female oppressed by upbringing, who can do nothing but complain in endless cacophony and bash  to show how oppressed she is. Good grief! I've been seeing more and more of that idiotic nonsense that’s supposed to be eye-opening but actually does nothing but dampen the public’s mind, corrupt children into useless rebels (either that or needless goody-two-shoes) but does nothing to contribute to the growing history of cinema or civilization. In reality, it's just a nuisance. Fortunately, my worries with this film were in vain! True, our heroine is a spirited one who is inspired to find her true destiny - but there wasn't anything annoying or stupid in that. "Brave" somewhat resurrects the "Freaky Friday" mother-daughter relationship in a tiffy, putting them on the path to rediscovery and adventure. In sometimes darker, more hair-raising proportions, it will be particularly revealing to mothers and daughters who see the film together for years to come. Yet every character in the film is significant. The three boys with their endless mischief represent the boys of any age - as sneaky as they always will be. The father will represent the sturdy husband, strong, but libel to go off the rocker if his cool and collected queen doesn't step in and set things in order. All in all, this dimension of the story sets the example of how to come together and reach agreements in a civilized way.

As with all the Pixar films I've seen, I was indeed quite pleased with this one. Yet, I was surprised to see  - of all the Pixar films – this film has done worst at the box office. Also, the reaction had been mixed among critics. Both the poster and trailer suggested it would be a different film and that, of course, children under perhaps nine should likely not see it quite yet. It is also fair to assume that more girls will go see the film than boys given that the protagonist is female. Perhaps the historical mystic Scottish setting was too much for most kids 11 and up. Still, the critics’ reaction not being overwhelmingly positive is a different story and perhaps can also be explained. Pixar really dumped something novel on us viewers. Well, one can only hope "Brave" will have more luck at the Oscars. Regardless, "Brave" is a worthy edition to the Disney/Pixar family of comedies and adventures. This film is indeed quite brilliant - I would give it a 97/98 rating on a scale from 1-100!

Copyright 2012 by Robert Steven Mack (all rights reserved!)

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