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Brave

August 25, 2012
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You can always rely on Pixar to tell a good story. In fact, you usually rely on them to tell a great story. The issue is that they might not always live up to their own laudably high standard – Like Usain Bolt not always setting a new world record at running really fast.

Brave is the latest offering from the animation powerhouse, Pixar. Set in the wilds of mystical Scotland, it follows the tale of flame-haired and free-spirited Princess Merida, while dealing with the themes of family and destiny. Independent Merida loves nothing more than riding her horse, shooting her bow and adventuring in general. This puts her at odds with her mother, the Queen, who is determined that Merida learn all the ways in which a proper lady should behave. This is in preparation for the Highland Games, where suitors from the three other clans – prissy, ox-like and dopey, respectively – compete for Merida’s hand in marriage.

Appalled by this, Merida secretly enters the archery competition (which she had the honour of choosing) and soundly defeats the other competitors, much to the embarrassment of her mother and the clan chieftains. A massive argument between Merida and the Queen ensues, which sees Merida ruin her mother’s tapestry and the Queen throws her bow into the fire. Distraught, Merida flees the castle and is led by a trail of will-o-the-wisp to the cottage of a wi…wood-carver. In answer to her pleas, the canny and decrepit wi…wood-carver gives Merida a spell to change her destiny…

I loved both the animation and the characters in this film but with this being Pixar, I expect eye-watering beautiful animation and keenly believable characters as standard. The dynamic between Merida and her mother is at the heart of this film and strikes me as quite genuine. Outside of the Scotland of yore, I’m sure there are a myriad of relationships playing out in a similar way. Beyond this dyad, most of the other characters are there because the plot needs them to be. That doesn’t mean they’re not fun.

The plot, and the film as a whole, struck me as something like Studio Ghibli meets Dreamworks. Not a bad thing by any means but I couldn’t help feeling I’d seen it before. The plot wasn’t stale or tired but it did seem more familiar and predictable than most other Pixar films.

My friend Lucy put it best, borrowing from what another online review had said. With Brave, instead of hitting it out of the park, Pixar have settled for scoring a home run. A home run of a film would be great for anyone else but since it’s Pixar, I was just expecting something a bit more.

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