Monday, July 02, 2012

the brave review

Way back in the day, like, a few years ago, Pixar was giving an update on it's upcoming films.  Toy Story 3 was in the wings, Cars 2 was on the horizon, there were rumors of a Monster's Inc sequel (prequel?), and two films that no one knew anything about--"Newt" and "The Bear and the Bow".

Well, I think "Toy Story 3" ended up doing okay, putting tears in eyes the likes of which we had not seen since... well, "Up".  "Cars 2" was a slight disappointment to say the least, and I'm among many that are pumped for "Monsters University" coming in 2013.

"Newt"?  It was the story of 2 newts, the last 2 of a certain kind of newt on Earth... its up to them to ensure the continuation of the species.  Well, before "Newt" could really get off  the drawing board, a similar movie called "Rio" was released, spinning the tale of the last 2 of a certain kind of blue macaw on Earth.  So "Newt" was scrapped.

And that leaves "The Bear and the Bow", billed as "Pixar's first fairy tale", with "Pixar's first princess".  The trailers began to come out, and we saw this girl with flaming red hair racing through the woods, shooting arrows, and battling big bears (a bow?  a bear?  yeah!!). 

The film went through a slight change, removing the title "The Bear and the Bow" and replacing it with a simple "Brave".  As more trailers were released, we started seeing more characters, and even some comedy along the way... but it still looked like a huge adventure, this princess who doesn't want to be a princess, atop her horse, on some huge adventure, on a quest to... save the world?  save the kingdom?  win back a prince, because that would be twist, right? 

First, every Pixar movie begins with a short film... this was called "La Luna", and its a bit unusual, maybe different from any other Pixar short I've seen.  That notwithstanding, its a great little film.  Its visually beautiful, and the story is charming and sweet. 

By the way, the whole archery thing?  Its part of the story... but not a big
part, not like you'd think, after all the pictures of Merida holding a bow
Then when Brave opens, its kind of exciting.  Pixar movies are like that... there is this sense of anticipation, and they do a good job of not releasing plots to their movies until they come out (remember "The Incredibles"?  No one knew what that movie was about until it premiered, and it was well worth the wait), and Brave is no different.

The animation is, for lack of a better word, stunning.  Sometimes when the landscape rushes forward and crests a mountain, its not hard to think you are looking a real life shot, not a computer animated drawing. 

The first part of the movie is exactly what you are hoping for... set in the Scottish countryside, within a peaceful kingdom and a huge castle, there's a princess, the flaming red haired Merida, who is a part of a royal family which includes her big, obnoxious father and her loving, but overbearing mother... and her silly triplet younger brothers who don't speak, but instead do nothing but cause trouble via pranks and mischief.

As you can tell from the trailers, a contest is held to "win her hand in marriage", with the nearby kingdoms bringing forth three complete dunderheads to compete.  And Merida decides to... well, win her own hand to keep from having to marry anyone until she's ready.

The triplets... also become part of "the twist"
The movie goes from there, as you can probably guess how she does in the contest, her being an expert archer and all.  The relationship between Merida and her mom breaks down completely, Merida flees... and then...


...well, then, this leads to a scene that I can only describe as a "crossroads", in which the film could have gone like, five different directions.  If you have seen the film, the scene I am describing involves the old woman and the wood carvings--that should be vague enough for those who haven't seen it to not be spoiled.

And the direction it takes... well, I wasn't expecting it.  Not at all.  I pride myself at kind of picking up on where movies are going, perhaps how they might end, and usually I'm pretty good at seeing a twist coming... this twist?  Did not see it coming... Not. At. All.

This twist defines this movie.  And how you react to this twist, how you take what happens after that old woman and the wood carvings will determine how you feel about this movie.  It caught me completely off guard, and it took me the second half of the movie to digest the twist.  Upon reflection, I'm okay with it. 

But I can totally see how someone would love it... or hate it.  I dunno.  I don't know what else to tell you without spoiling the film! 

The imagery of this movie is spectacular, Merida is very likable, and the cast, somewhat smaller than many Pixar films, is splendid.  There are lots and lots of laughs, especially from the triplets, and the voice cast is also excellent--Billy Connelly is King Fergis, Emma Thompson is Queen Elinor and somewhat unknown actress Kelly MacDonald does a fine job as Merida... the pacing of the movie is good, as it never drags, and the laughs are suprisingly aplenty... and, Pixar's first butt shot.  Or butts shot.

This is safe for kids, as you'd expect from Pixar, but there are a few scenes that might be a bit frightening for younger children.  Language is never a problem, and remember, expect the twist to knock you for a loop.

the july 31 day two

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