I am Merida, and I’ll be shooting for my own hand.
Directed by: Mark Andrews/Brenda Chapman/Steve Purcell
Written by: Andrews/Brenda Chapman/Steve Purcell/Irene Mecchi
We all know how I feel about Pixar. I would see anything with that word smeared across the screen, even if it was smeared in the vilest substance known to man. (Apparently, though, I won’t go see a Cars movie. I still haven’t seen any of those in the theatre.)
I’m pretty sure I saw some previews, though. Let’s see.
FRANKENWEENIE–Remember seeing this one on the Disney Channel back in the day? Well, I don’t because I didn’t have DTV. I did, however, become a huge fan of Tim Burton and eventually saw it on video. I also know that Disney had no clue what to do with this short film by one of their animators. They had so little idea that they fired him for making a short film that was “too dark” for them to use. Now they’ve bankrolled a feature of it. Funny. I hope it’s good, but I’m skeptical after Tim’s latest few movies. He hasn’t done anything great in a long time. (Although, I really did like Sweeney Todd a lot.)
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT–The Ice Age franchise may have run its course, but I dunno. I still think they’re pretty funny. As long as Scrat is still in them, I’ll at least check them out on a DVD borrowed from a friend who has kids.
PARANORMAN–I’m REALLY not sure about this one. A CGI animation flick about a kid who sees ghosts. The directors did work on some other great films (Coraline, Flushed Away, Corpse Bride…that was alright), so it could be cool. I’ll check it out eventually. It is kind of right up my ally. That’s probably why I’m so unsure.
HOPE SPRINGS–These next two were actually on Moonrise Kingdom, but I forgot to talk about them. Hope Springs is a romantic comedy with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones trying to save their faltering marriage by going to a counselor played by Steve Carrell. It looks really silly and it’s not something that I’ll run to the theatre to see (although I really like everyone involved), but it is kind of cool to see a movie based around older folks rekindling themselves. This movie was NOT made for me. Hopefully, it’s good, though.
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER–An adaptation of a YA novel that apparently everyone loves. The movie looks cliched and kinda silly, but it has Emma Watson in it, so it will probably be at least a modest hit for that. And every alienated teenager will want to see it so that they feel like they’re a part of something. Silly kids. No one is truly a part of anything. Once you realize that, you’ll be free.
Ok, let’s be Brave together.
Merida (Kelly MacDonald) is a young girl in ancient Scotland who wants to be more than just another princess. Her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) has been trying to mold her into the “perfect princess” to no avail. Merida has rebelled at every turn, running out to practice her archery instead of her poise. Her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), has really only helped Merida’s case by giving her bows and swords for her birthdays.
When Merida comes of age, it’s time for her to be betrothed to one of the other kingdom’s princes. They’re all losers and, besides, she has NO intention of getting married. Especially not to one of these dweebs. She runs off and is led deep into the woods by the Will O’ The Wisps, tiny mythical creatures that lead you to a new fate. She meets an old witch (Julie Walters) who helps with that fate change. How? Well, that’s part of the fun.
Pixar has made an industry out of making films that appeal not just to kids, but to their parents. They’re smart, funny and, ultimately, life-affirming in a way that only a really good kids’ film can be. Sure, the Cars movies have been a bit on the weak side (and have really ONLY appealed to the kiddos), but even those are decent and fun.
Brave is a departure for them really in only one way: it has a female protagonist. Up until now, women and girls have been either in the background or side characters. Merida is the first true female main character for Pixar. This is HUGE for some folks. And it a pretty big deal when one of the greatest studios in modern cinema decides to do something like this. Was it a political statement, though? Maybe not. (Hell, it may have had more to do with Disney wanting a Pixar character in their Princess line.) I think it was just time for them to make a film about a young girl and how she finds (and redefines) her place in the world. It’s a great message for little girls (and women) to learn and it’s interesting that the father is the one who is so much for her being her own person.
Outside of all of the political implications of the main character, the movie itself is…well…not the best of the Pixar films. It’s the first non-Cars film to not top the rest of the films. Does that make it bad or even mediocre? NO! It just makes it a good movie instead of a phenomenal movie. The main problem that I had was that I wasn’t as emotionally involved in the story as I have been in the past. I was with Wall-E the whole way. I cared every second whether Carl, Russell and Dug made it to their destination. With Merida, I cared a lot, but not quite as much. It wasn’t until the very end when things started to get really dire that I really felt the pain of what Merida was going through.
Another weakness of the film is, honestly, some of the writing. The film went through three different directors and four writers, so there’s bound to be some disjointedness to it. The problem is that Merida does some things that, really, no one would do. She fees her mom a “magic” pastry that a crazy old woman gave her in the woods. She has no clue what it will do. Only “change” her mother. “Here ya go, Mom! I made this for you!” Wait…what? You realize that it could KILL YOUR MOTHER, right?
I understand that teenagers don’t always think about things before they do them, but this is going a bit far. I think most teenagers, unless they’re socio/psychopathic would have, as soon as the old woman disappeared, thrown the pastry into the woods and run far, far away.
The Pixar crew have written a story that ended up being fairly easy and cliched. Fortunately, they filled it with great characters and, as I said, eventually made you really care about what went on. (It helps that the actors are awesome, too.)
Actually, let me amend that. It WASN’T the Pixar crew that made this film. The directors and writers (while a few of them have story credits on Cars), were ALL Disney people. The real leaders of Pixar were nowhere to be seen beyond Executive Producer credits. Unfortunately, that makes the whole movie feel like a Disney movie instead of a Pixar film.
Brave is better than the Cars films, but it’s still not quite up to scratch for Pixar. The problem with that is, if the movie doesn’t do as well as the other films, Disney will see it as “Well, girls just don’t go to movies” instead of “Huh, people want GREATNESS from Pixar, not good.” And that’s just too bad.