Disney and Pixar have done it again. I don’t know what those people put in their coffee every morning, but I would wager it is derived from magic, and not the kind promoted by haggard, clever old women who spend their days carving wooden figurines. It is always a joy to be surprised by the introduction of a new Pixar masterpiece. Pixar’s latest film, Brave, introduces another lovable princess into the hearts and minds of Disney and Pixar fans across the world along with a brand new story of adversity between mother and daughter and how the strongest bonds can be broken by pride and arrogance. It is a film born from the spirit of adventure and the desire to rise up against archaic tradition, to become the master of our own destiny and make life-changing decisions for ourselves. A cast of adorable characters, spectacular music, a witty screenplay and a little bit of magic bring the tale of Brave to life. But is the movie any good?
The answer is a resounding yes. I’m going to be honest, I was wholly underwhelmed by the trailers for Brave. It was the first time this has ever happened, and I began to think perhaps I was finally growing up. Fortunately, Pixar has a history of pumping out hit after hit, from Toy Story and Finding Nemo to Monsers Inc. and Up. Brave is no exception. It is a tale of a young princess who’s desire to rebel against her destiny directly clashes with her Queen mother’s beliefs in strict tradition and staunch adherence to the conduct standards of a lady. The themes that are presented in Brave will be instantly familiar to fans of Walt Disney films. This goes a long way toward making Brave feel like a member of the Disney family straight from the start. What sets this movie apart from the rest is the narrative and the spectacular characterization of the film’s key players.
One of the definitive highlights of Brave is the princess’ family. Her father, the King, is a grossly overgrown child who revels in his daughter’s rebellious antics and the frustrated responses of the Queen. His hilarious gags easily snagged most of the laughs in the early parts of the film, only slightly overshadowed by the three mischievous little princes as the film moved into its second act. Brave does a fantastic job taking traditional character types and give them a unique twist to make them feel fresh, funny and instantly likable. Even the film’s “villain,” the witch, was absolutely adorable. Despite being responsible for causing the majority of the drama in the latter parts of the film, you can’t help but find the witch extremely likable and blameless. A strong argument can be made that the witch isn’t even a villain at all, but that is an argument I will save for another discussion.
If I have one complaint about Brave, its that the film felt a little bit too contained. This is an extremely minor observation that I’m sure most people will look at me funny for even mentioning, but I felt the movie lacked the reach and sense of grandeur that is a trademark of most Pixar films. For example, Finding Nemo is a story that sprawls across a vast ocean. Monster’s Inc. has their main characters traveling between the world of monsters and the world filled with human children. Toy Story brings their characters all over a town filled with a huge array of unique individuals. Brave sees their characters wander around in a forest and their castle for a little bit. I felt the movie lacked the sprawling, imaginative worlds I’ve come to expect in my Pixar films, but this does not change how I feel about the movie at all.
If you’ve ever liked a Pixar film, you’re going to like Brave. If you have children near the age of 5, you’re all going to like Brave. The acting was impeccable. The gags were spot on and had me nearly rolling out of my seat. The story is entertaining and imbued with enough emotional resonance to allow you to really empathize with the characters and their struggles. There were a couple of times where I almost choked up, especially near the end. I KNEW it wasn’t going to end the way they wanted you to think it was going to end, but I cared enough about the characters that the thought that it COULD end that way triggered an emotional response within me. It’s like that scene in Toy Story 3 where you know they probably aren’t going to incinerate any of those toys, but the thought that they might is just enough to make you feel.
I strongly encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in seeing this film to pack themselves and their family into the car and go buy some tickets. You won’t be disappointed. Brave is a great way to spend an afternoon or an evening, and is a movie I foresee sitting in many homes.
For more of our thoughts on Brave, check out our special Brave podcast!