Bold Visualization, Fun Story

Ever since A Bug’s Life, Pixar has been known as the studio to make animated movies.  Most of their work is upbeat, fun, and quite entertaining on many levels, yet still has some emotional or moral connection to drive it home.  Rather than doing another sequel as we have seen the past two summers, Pixar decided to release another original movie entitled Brave, which has been promoted for the last five months.  However, without the colorful monsters, adventurous toys, or wacky cars I was a little hesitant about seeing it.  So how was Pixar’s latest work?  Read on to find out.

In case you haven’t seen the countless trailers and advertisements on Disney Channel, Brave is the tale of Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) a princess of a Scottish kingdom.  The flaming red haired maiden has a thing for adventure and freedom, but her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) refuses her freedom due to the violation of tradition and the threat of war.  However, Merida’s tomboyish nature makes her refuse tradition and resorts in her making a wish from a swamp witch (Julie Walters) that may shake the future of the kingdom to its core.

The plot from the first commercial I saw had the potential for adventure, and Pixar did a fantastic job delivering the promise.  From the beginning of the movie, Merida’s journey is fun, exciting, and although not the usual action I like was still fast enough to keep me entertained. The balance in the film was nice to see, a good blend of comedy and mystery to keep one in the adventure without being too over the top.  Unlike most of their movies that are filled with lots of zany laughs, cooky antics, and cartoon comical voices, Brave leans more towards story telling than laughs.  As a result, the humor is a little bit more mature than other installments and the adventure is a little bit scarier.  Unlike Toy Story and Ratatouille, Brave is filled with louder and more vicious creatures that in the theater be too loud and dark for the average Pixar film.  Thus, exercise caution when taking your kids to see it.  However, these characteristics give this film an edge that hasn’t been seen since the Incredibles.  Perhaps what is also really well done in this film are the morals integrated within the story.  Although a bit preachy at times, Merida does a nice job promoting the two lessons of the importance of family and working together to accomplish goals, something Congress needs to learn.

The voice acting is pretty good too and is another factor that helps bring the adventure to life.  Macdonald nailed the tomboy Irish girl down and managed to capture the teenage sprit down pretty well.  Thompson on the other hand was the perfect candidate for the queen, as her English accent was a useful tool to help bring the character to life.  Even Billy Connolly surprised me with his voice acting, as he was the most entertaining of the crew.   For once his voice was actually well suited for a role that didn’t involve being a drunk pirate or soldier, and I couldn’t stop laughing at his various shouts and phrases towards the crew.

However, the biggest thing that impressed me were the visuals of the movie.  As many reviewers have already stated, Brave is spectacularly designed to bring the Scottish hitherlands to life.  The water and trees of the marshes and loch are stunningly detailed and shaded to look real, casting shadows to help bring the feeling of dread in the forest.  The water is still well modeled to reflect the light even in the tiniest water droplets, which still impresses me.  Although most of the characters had that classic cartoony look, they did manage to make the hair look real and react to the various antics of the characters.  Again some of the character structure still needs some work on the realistic scale, but overall Brave had beautiful visual work.

There are not too many weaknesses I can pick up on this movie, mostly because I was very entertained by the adventure.  If I had to pick though, I would say one thing is the story was again pretty predictable with only one twist really getting me.  Two is that this movie didn’t have the typical quick pace that its movies typically have.  While I enjoyed the deep character development, the moral lessons and the adventure, it still was not as quick as the others.  However, these are only slight weaknesses that I have picked up.

Brave is indeed a welcome addition to the Pixar ranks, and is worth a trip to the theater if you are looking for a family movie.  Again I warn you of the scary images and in some cases slight nudity that you may not want to expose them too.  However, it’s still the same Pixar magic that keeps us coming back for more.  My scores for this movie are the following:

Animation/Action/Adventure: 8.0-8.5

Movie Overall: 7.5

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