By Ed Sum
At the heart of Pixar’s CGI film, Brave, is a look at the ties that bind and the threads that get broken along the way. This medieval parable can easily be retold within any cultural backdrop and that can make for a universally understood movie.
In this film, the Scottish setting is appropriate. The importance of bringing clans together does get noticed as the tale progresses and some viewers can easily shout, “Braveheart!” along the way. But this movie is hardly original. PIXAR may have taken a few ideas from an older product, namely Disney’s Brother Bear, and redesigned it for a newer generation. The concept of brotherhood is important, but this time the focus is on sisterhood, and the bonds that keeps families together.
This movie has the potential to play up some of Scotland’s mystique, and sadly it does not. Should the producers have gone further, a fanciful look into the mysticism of the Celtic pride and superstition could have made for a satisfying watch. MacBeth and Shakespeare must be feeling ashamed by now. This movie is hardly Arthurian in style either. With this film, the struggle comes from one strong-willed teenage redhead who is not willing to be a Juliet to all the Romeos who are brought to her attention.
In Merida‘s (Kelly Macdonald) struggle for independence, her selfishness gets in the way. With the film, when the bushy-haired teen learns she is to be betrothed, her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), is more about protocol than about understanding her daughter’s needs. But in terms of trying to get either to listen, neither is willing to bend. That may also ring true behind the production of this movie.
That fight may also ring true in a project that was started by Brenda Chapman. She was reported to have left the production for reasons undisclosed. Mark Andrews replaced her, and set about a new direction for this movie. In true Twilight Zone fashion, the wish Merida makes gets misconstrued. That sets in motion a huge series of unfortunate events that only gets worse until both unrelenting females can mend more than just a few broken fences.
While this movie studies mother-daughter dynamics more than anything else, just how this product will pan out to a wide spectrum of audience demographics will be varied. This film is not very suitable to children who can get easily frightened and PG-13 rating is far more appropriate than its current one. The subplot about Mor’du, a demon bear, can be unsettling, and all the males are cast into comical roles than heroes from Celtic lore.
And the humor is more peppered throughout this story than integrated. Unlike previous PIXAR films that are sweetly sentimental, like Ratatouille, or hugely comical, as with the Cars franchise, this one is stuck in between. This movie cannot decide if it should be one or the other. If this project only kept Chapman in as the director, then her specific creative flavor would have remained intact. But this movie is more like a fractured fairy tale that needs a stronger narration to tie up its loose ends.