Brave not a bull’s-eye but it hits the target mostly
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Pixar has rebounded nicely after its first-ever misfire last year with Cars 2 (Movie Man No. 936, 4).
Brave is far from a classic from Pixar, but the studio has set the bar impossibly high. Under normal circumstances, people would be going crazy about it.
About the filmPixar felt its first sting of critical ho-hummery when the reviews for Cars 2 were not fawning. Brave is better, but there’s already some grumbling that the Disney-fication of the studio – the Mouse House bought Pixar – is hampering the magic.
Still, if Pixar is seeing its lone less-than-superior movie disappearing in its rearview mirror, what’s next for the studio? Two films are locked in for the next two summers, the first highly-anticipated by the Movie Man. That’s Monsters University, a sequel to the very funny Monsters, Inc. (2001, MM #428, 7), the fourth-ever Pixar movie.
(Can you name them in order? 1. Toy Story [1995, MM #103, 8]; 2. A Bug’s Life [1998, MM #262, 6]; 3. Toy Story 2 [1999, MM #315, 9 Best of Year]; 4. Monsters, Inc.; 5. Finding Nemo [2003, MM #510, 9 Best of Year and the best animated movie ever made]; 6. The Incredibles [2004, MM #585, 8]; 7. Cars [2006, MM #670, 5]; 8. Ratatouille [2007, MM #725, 5]; 9. WALL-E [2008, MM #779, 7]; 10. Up [2009, MM #827, 8]; 11. Toy Story 3 [2010, MM #882, 8]; 12. Cars 2; and now Brave [originally The Bear and the Bow].)
Certainly, if Monsters University – a prequel about how Sully (voiced by John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) met in college coming next June 21) – is the hit it almost certainly will be, then the second movie in the Pixar pipeline has some pressure on it: The Good Dinosaur (due May 30, 2014 with a plot revolving around a what-if dinos never became extinct).
Way down the road are a couple of untitled movies, a possible Incredibles sequel (which would be terrific), and even a fourth Toy Story.
So, fellow Pixar fans, the future looks bright.
(The Movie Man saw Brave in 2-D, but it looked like it might be super in 3-D)
Teen Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is a rambunctious future queen. She’s rowdy and a super archer much to the delight of her kingly father Fergus (Billy Connolly) and the dismay of her proper queen mother (Emma Thompson).
When rulers from surrounding kingdoms arrive with their sons as suitors for Macdonald, she verbally fights with her mother and flees into the forest.
There, she follows a series of will-o’-the-wisps to a cabin housing a witch. Macdonald makes a wish to change her life and, boy, does that happen. (The Movie Man won’t reveal what transpires between the girl and her mother but the original title will give you a big hint. Kudos to Pixar for its silence.)
Soon, the daughter and, uh, mother must figure out a way to get things back to the way they were – which is no easy feat with a rampaging bear terrorizing all.
The main thing about Pixar is always how incredible the movies look. Brave is no exception.
From the insanely red flowing hair of Merida to the fierce bear attacks to the depth of the forest and interior shots, every frame of the film is exceptional.
There’s lots of fun voice work here – like the exasperated Thompson – as well as some non-verbal humor. (But see “What doesn’t work”)
The mischievous, silent little brother triplets are humorous and really deliver a big laugh late.
There’s a couple of scenes – one in the woods and the other in the castle – with the “new” queen pantomiming her frustrations while trying to be understood that are exceptionally inventive.
Normally, the Movie Man would select the mime scene above as the top sequence. But, like every Pixar movie, there’s a short at the beginning of Brave.
It, too, is verbally silent, but the visuals are astounding as well as the sound. You will never look at the moon the same way again. Don’t be late.
What doesn’t work
There are some problems with Brave. (The Movie Man teetered between a 6 and 7.)
The ending is resolved almost right out of the blue. There’s some witty wordplay involved but most won’t get it; the word is “tear.”
Macdonald’s voicing is so authentic that many times it’s too hard to understand her.
The biggest woe is the lack of humor. Pixar movies are often the funniest of the year and this one isn’t. There are some chuckles and a few outright laughs, but far less then usual. That was a bummer.
This is a usual Disney sort of PG: It’s gentle with sudden jolts of scary creatures. The loud, toothsome bears caused many a child to cover their eyes in fear in the packed auditorium with the Movie Man.
Plus, there’s an “oh, my gosh!” chuckle scene (like the Mom with two little girls sitting next to the Movie Man muttered) when a couple of bare buns are displayed.
Brave is good, not great. It falls in the middle of the Pixar pack which isn’t a bad thing when you think of the masterpieces the studio has already produced. It’s worth the effort, certainly in 3-D.