Does anyone feel that Pixar has undergone a bit of a shift in recent years? After “Up” was released in 2009, it feels they might be a bit stuck for ideas. Sequels are starting to appear: Toy Story 3, Cars 2 (who asked for THAT?) and upcoming Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo sequels. Why they didn’t do an Incredibles sequel yet is odd, I’d have thought that was the easiest sequel to imagine.
But we have another original movie in the shape of “Brave”, but somehow it lacks the spark or creativity that earlier movies like Wall-E had. It doesn’t seem to be using its position as an original competitor to the standard Disney tales to push the ideas of what an animated movie could be (though maybe Disney buying Pixar has some influence on this).
Brave isn’t a bad film at all, but the path is so well-trodden, and the laughs so reliant on slapstick and toilet humour that I was left a bit unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, I love a fart joke as much as anyone, but anyone can do that. While the story was well-told, it felt a bit of a basic tale of parental expectation vs childish freedom, via the old “princess arranged marriage” path of storytelling.
The characters were quite nondescript, aside from lead girl Princess Merida, and brief moments with her mother Queen Elinor. Neither were particularly taxing roles, with plenty of expectedly emotional scenes as their relationship is explored. Everyone else, including the father, seemed like pretty generic comic-book Viking types. Even the only main protagonist – a big monster bear – only got a fleeting bit of coverage, all a bit by-the-by.
Of course it looked gorgeous as we expect from Pixar now, and some sequences were really beautiful – the salmon catching was great. Without giving anything away, the bit with Merida and the bear were quite entertaining. But all in all, it was perhaps pitched a little younger than previous Pixar hits, or at least didn’t have the appeal to all ages in the same way as those films.
It’s not a black mark on Pixar’s book (though Cars was for me), but it’s not a particularly standout entry in the canon either. If I had a choice between seeing this and seeing “How to train your dragon”, I would go for the latter every time. I feel that movie covered most of the themes a lot more effectively.