Pixar-Disney’s latest animated adventure tells the story of a young Scottish princess, Merida (Kelly Macdonald). Merida is a bold, slightly headstrong young lady who is more interested in roughhousing and hunting than she is in the lady-like expectations and training her mother has of her. When her mother introduces suitors for an arranged marriage, Merida sets about changing her fate (and changing her mother).
It’s a story that’s been done over and over again. In “Aladdin,” Jasmine fights her father’s plans for an arranged marriage for her by running off. Mulan does the exact same thing. This isn’t a very new idea in the animated world. But I still had hopes for Pixar’s version of these events because Pixar’s strong suit is giving stories about relationships with depth. Unfortunately, while I was hoping for the lovely depth of relationships as displayed in a film like, “Up,” I instead got a generic and predictable mother-daughter struggle. This type of story, while not awful, has been beaten over the head with a stick just as much as the arranged marriages for animated females. It’s like the “Freaky Friday” plot mashed with “Aladdin” and wrapped in a Scottish story. It looks nice, but it isn’t anything new.
A generic plot might have been forgiveable, but I can’t forgive the flat humor of this film. Most of the jokes relied on making fun of impediments, fart jokes and far too many jiggly boob jokes. At one point, a plot point has a small boy dive into a women’s breasts to retrieve a key. Seriously? Who thought that was a good idea? It’s crass and low brow and not something that I’d expect most parents would want to expose their children to — and this is supposed to be a children’s movie! I appreciate animated films that can be appealing to both kids and adults, but this was just insulting. The low brow humor is just not what I expected from the usual caliber of Pixar films.
What this film does get right is the animation and the settings. There are some really detailed scenes. When Merida is in the witch’s cottage and surrounded by wood carvings, each wood carving is a unique design. The wisps are beautifully and enticingly designed. This is also the best animated hair that’s ever been done in a film and I loved the symbolism of how hair is used in this film as personality traits. Merida is a bit wild, just like her hair. Her mother is too uptight and her hair is always pulled back without a strand out of place. It isn’t until she learns to loosen up a bit that her hair ever comes down.
This film looked like it had so much potential from the trailers, but it never really finds its spark. “Brave” is anything but that – it’s a dull, rehashed story with lame, inappropriate jokes. I hope Pixar takes some risks on its next adventure.
*Oscar-nominated animated short “La Luna” appears at the beginning of this film. Like “Brave,” it’s beautiful; but unlike “Brave, it’s original.