Brave (2012) ☆☆☆(3/4) : She deserves her next adventures

I have never imagined the day will come – the day when I struggle to find any way possible to talk about a Pixar animation. I cannot deny that “Brave” is a good animation film which can be enjoyed by children as well as adults, but it lacks a certain level of distinctiveness and creativeness we have witnessed from the previous Pixar animations. Fortunately for us, this weakness is not a serious problem, but I could not help but think about how better the other Pixar animations are as I was enjoying its good moments consisting of your average medieval fantasy elements.

But, folks, let’s look at its good elements, which are the main reasons I recommend it to you despite my reservation. Our heroine is a young princess named Merida(voiced by Kelly Macdonald), and she is determined not to be your typical princess(in these days, that is typical, you know). Even when she was very young, she was quite a lively little girl, and she knew what she wanted when she received a bow from her big daddy, King Fergus(voiced by Billy Connolly).

The time has passed, and Merida, still plucky as usual, is now an adolescent girl who is old enough to marry someone chosen for her. Of course, as a rebellious girl who prefers to go outside, ride her beloved horse, and shoot arrows with her bow, she clashes with her mother Elinor(voiced by Emma Thompson), who sincerely wants her daughter to get married to some suitable guy. Although I can understand Eilnor’s intentions, I must say the prospects are not bright for Merida: none of three potential suitors looks valid for several good reasons(you may be amused to see that one of them is named MacGuffin, the son of Lord MacGuffin).

After a big quarrel with her mother in the evening, Merida runs out of the castle and then is led into the forest by mysterious blue lights. She eventually comes across the house of an old witch(voiced by Julie Walters). Once finding that she is not just a nutty woodworker, Merida asks her to provide a spell to change her mother, and a witch gladly provides what Merida wishes for as soon as she is paid. I bet that famous phrase “Be careful for what you wish for, you might get it.” never occurs to Merida, even when the witch says something right before they are quickly parted.

And she does get it; the spell indeed works in a short time, and her mother is changed – into a big bear. Merida naturally regrets about what she has done, but it is not easy for her to solve this serious trouble. Luckily for her, there is a way to remove the spell, but the time is pretty short for her and her mother. Furthermore, her father, who lost one of his legs due to a bear attack in the past, is certainly not the man who will welcome a bear in his castle.

So Merida and her mother must get out of the castle, and, yes, they spend the time together in the forest as a girl and her beastly mom. Although her mother cannot talk, they manage to communicate with each other through several gestures. It occurred to me that it could be easier for Merida’s mom if she just wrote what she tried to say to her daughter with her pointy nails, but it cannot be denied that the wordless exchanges between them provide some good laughs to the audiences.

I found the story a little too typical and predictable, but there are nice individual scenes in “Brave”. We can understand Merida’s view and her mother’s, and there is a sad moment when Elinor regrets about being too harsh to her daughter during their quarrel. The barrier between them is more apparent after Elinor’s transformation, but they gradually confirm to each other that how much they love and care about each other despite the disagreement between them.

The animation is lovely to watch. You do not need unnecessary 3D glasses to appreciate the fine details in its gorgeous depiction of the Highlands on the big screen, and Patrick Doyle’s score is effective while being appropriately Scottish. I was constantly amused whenever Merida’s little triplet brothers, as spirited as her big sisters, did something mischievous or helpful, and I liked King Fergus, a big tough guy who is also as soft as any good dad can be. I’d love to hear about how he met his wife, who looks timid beside him but can be quite authoritative when her husband and other men behave like a bunch of immature big boys in the hall.

But my reservation remains because of its relative blandness. Even the lesser Pixar animations like “Cars 2”(2011) had some distinctive qualities(I liked that animation film unlike many of you, by the way), and they were surely better than at least half of the other contemporary animations made during their time. I even wondered whether I could have recognized “Brave” as a Pixar animation if the Pixar logo had been not shown at the beginning of the screening. I could have mistaken it for a new Dreamwork animation I had not heard of it. And I do not think the filmmakers did not fully utilize the potentials inside their story.

But I guess I must objectively judge it, above all, based on whether it is an enjoyable animation or not, and “Brave” is a product well-made enough to be recommended. Its story is so typical that I grasped for any fresh expressions to describe it, but Merida is a brave heroine I cared about, and I think she really deserves her next adventures. There have been some worry about whether the glorious days of the Pixar animation were over due to the recent commercial failure of “Cars 2”, but “Brave” shows that they can still make a good animation even at their blandest mode.

Sidenote: There is a small scene after the end credit is finished. It is not important, but you may enjoy it.

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