Summer Movie Slam: ‘Brave’

Tuttle: For this particular review, me and my co-writer, Rebecca Agler, decided to tag team the duties of writing about ‘Brave’. It seems like a movie that most of the general public went to see, and it was also a film that both Agler and I were particularly disappointed with.

I know what you are thinking. “I thought ‘Brave’ was a pretty good movie.” Well, it very well might have been, but a ‘pretty good’ Pixar movie, in my mind, is a HUGE step backwards for a great production company. This is the same studio that gave us ‘Toy Story’, ‘Finding Nemo’, ‘WALL-E’, and my personal favorite ‘Up’. I mean think about it, can you think of many movies that tell a story better than ‘Up’? That montage that made all of America weep and weep again? Pure movie magic. Agler, why do you think we are so attached to these older Pixar movies?

Agler: It’s because they’re stories  that are so easy for us to relate to. Just think of ‘Toy Story’. Now, where do I begin with why I love ‘Toy Story’? A common part of childhood we all had when we were little tykes, whether it was playing with a dolled-up Barbie or macho (insert male toy), was making our toys talk and have human tendencies. The idea that our toys were more than toys was what every kid dreamed of. That’s why we can all relate to growing up but refusing to give our toys away despite our mother’s nagging wishes. We formed an unbreakable allegiance to our plastic friends. These friends didn’t tire of hours upon hours of play time, didn’t care how lame our imaginative scenarios were, were often chosen instead of other activities, and were our companions when the real people around us were not.

This storyline is there in all three ‘Toy Story’ movies; they’re not so much about toys as much as they’re about growing up. You could say the same thing about ‘Monsters Inc.’ and ‘The Incredibles’. These movies, although some might call them ‘kids’ movies’, are about very real things.

Tuttle: And this brings us to ‘Brave’. Obviously, I went in with high expectations, given how great the Pixar movies of the past have been (sure ‘Cars 2’ was awful, but no one really liked ‘Cars’ that much in the first place). I think the biggest reason that I was let down with ‘Brave’ was the fact that the story was not unique in any way. In reality, you could take the characters of ‘Brave’, and the storyline of ‘Mulan’, and end up getting the same exact movie. Woman must marry man, but woman wants independence. Woman makes statement about independence and must endure conflict. Women overcomes conflict when society makes compromises. Cue credits. It’s all seems very formulaic and unoriginal to me, a story that we’ve all heard a million times.

Agler: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Brave, but it didn’t hit me until the end that this movie was not what I expected it to be, so it fell below my expectations. I have to say it kept my attention, and I wasn’t always sure what would happen next. But I was left thinking “what a letdown” because there were really no endearing characters. Yes, the connection between mother and daughter brought tears to my eyes while watching with my own mother, and yes, the change of a girl choosing singlehood over marriage is rare and possibly a first for childhood memories (hooray!) , but other than that, there was really nothing all that great as far as the characters go. The animation was of a higher quality and inspiring, but the story, the story was lacking. I honestly don’t know if they could’ve made it any better. It seems to be a stinker from the beginning.

Tuttle: I think the script could really be to blame. I mean, other Pixar movies had the creative genius of Brad Bird, Pete Docter, among others. Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman headed this one up, and in my mind, just really fell short.

I know of a lot of people that were really excited to see, for the first time, a female lead character in a Pixar movie. Especially in a year that gave us strong women like Katniss Everdeen, Suzy Bishop, Selina Kyle, and Black Widow, how do you think Merida measured up to the rest?

Agler: Merida was stubbornly independent, willful, and determined. But her actions and decisions didn’t scream “remember me, I’m different.” She missed the boat on that certain character trait, that spark, found in classic female characters in animated movies. Let’s take her and compare her to Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Belle was stubbornly independent when ignoring her town and loving her father anyway, was willful when refusing to settle and marry a jerk, and determined to see the good in the Beast. But we got to know Belle while witnessing her deep compassion for those around her, her numerous encounters with the Beast, her simplicity when it came to life and how she didn’t need her every move catered to, and her fierce determination to seek justice and equality.

Merida had potential to be a strong female character, she was in scenarios where she could have stood out, but it’s almost like she didn’t cross over the finish line. He started to be great but stopped half way. For example, Merida was the reason her mother turned into a bear. She would’ve stood out as a true heroine if she would’ve, let’s say, traded her humanity with her mother so her mother could become human again. Instead, the way her mother transformed was really no burden on Merida: all she had to do was sew a canvas together. There were simply no heroic acts that made Merida worthy to be called a classic heroine.

Tuttle: Agler, I think with what you just said, you revealed a key point to how ‘Brave’ really missed the boat, and it’s the fact that out main character didn’t have to sacrifice anything but a kooky evening of shenanigans in order to solve the conflict. In reality, it was the mother that was forced to be the hero, to suffer trials and achieve resolution. As an audience member, I felt no connection to Merida, and therefore didn’t feel any connection with this movie. Also, that old witch? Worthless character, through and through. Absolutely no purpose. She didn’t even show up after the spell was broken to offer an answers. I would’ve rather had Billy Crystal as Miracle Max than that irrelevant hag.

So where does Pixar go from here? I mean, with ‘Cars 2’ and now ‘Brave’, they’ve made two pretty mediocre movies in a row. Should they keep going for sequels, or do they try to write another unique story? They’ve now struck out in both categories.

Agler: I’d definitely say new, original stories. With Pixar, it’s almost too risky to have a sequel. Toy Story was lucky, but the rest should be left alone due to their finality in ending and overall creativity. Some stones are better left unturned. It seems like there is a repeat in movies these days: new characters and settings, same ideas. Fresh, new ideas are hard to come by, so Pixar landing one will be a great success and something worth working towards. Brave was a new idea, but the execution was horrible.

Tuttle: If they just keep re-releasing they’re good movies in 3D, they should do just fine. *cue ominous music here*.

Agler: I think its understandable that our expectations are high after the stellar movies Pixar has made. But the last two are causing me at least to be cautious in my excitement. Pixar is simply struggling like all other production companies with the need for originality, but I would say they of all companies should be able to come up with something due to their unique perspective in movies.

Our Note: ‘Brave’ falls short, but remains to be at least a decent movie for the whole family. Pixar: We want better than decent.

Our Grade: C

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