Here we go with another first for Pixar. And they are so very good with firsts… their animation is unrelentingly ground breaking, and they push the envelope in that field with every film. Films like Toystory 1 and 2, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles (which is a personal favourite of mine) are beautiful crafted, well-told stories that have great appeal. They are the masters. So we wait with baited breath for each new film. The problem is of course that generally you can’t really compare Pixar films to other animation – they are a bit of a class above, at least they were. In recent years Dreamworks have given them a run for their money with the great Kung Fu Panda films, as have Ice Age films from Blue Sky.
Brave is the story of Merida, the Scottish princess who needs to find a suitor but decides she doesn’t need or want anyone to care for her. The first part of the film is her coming to terms with what she needs to do to ‘save herself’. And this is an excellent first half to the film. We get introduced to the many great characters around her, her father King Hamish voiced by the wonderful Billy Connelly who manages to get through an entire film without a swear word – it is a miracle (but then it is also Pixar/Disney)! Her Mother (voiced by Emma Thompson) parents her in a rather uptight fashion which leads Merida to making the rather silly mistake on consulting a Witch (voiced by Julie Walters) to try and fix her situation. Without giving too much away, the Witch’s spell of course just complicates everyone’s lives further. Watch up for Merida’s three mischievous brothers, Hamish, Hubert and Harris who steal just about every scene they are in.
Pixar have an unusual way of building their films, with a more collaborative approach at play. Rather than one director, they have a team approach with co-directors. This film started with Brenda Chapman at the helm (she also wrote the story) with Steve Purcell co-producing. It was a thrilling concept, a film with two female protagonists (pretty much a first anywhere) the first female led film for Pixar and directed by a woman. Somewhere along the line Mark Andrews was brought in after “creative differences”. Maybe this added to the slightly disjointed nature of the film, with the second half feeling quite different to the first. Interestingly it is probably the half that will appeal to the young male audience, so maybe that was why it was put in. This second half is quite scary, so I would say that it would be best to keep the under 8s (or there abouts) at home. It might work better for them once the film is on a smaller screen, so wait for the DVD release. All in all I think maybe we were just hoping for too much (in terms of where this could have gone), but at least it is a good stepping-stone.
One of the very best things about this film is the wonderful short film at the beginning of the movie. La Luna will become a Pixar classic along with the other short films that have played before the main feature. A fanciful tale of how the moon gets to shine each night. Overall, a 3 1/2 out of 5.