25 June 2012

I Am Disappoint: Pixar's Botched BRAVE

     I adore Pixar. I've grown up with Pixar. My brother and I used to dress up as Buzz and Woody. We quoted Finding Nemo obsessively for months following its release. We collected Monsters, Inc. toys. So every part of me wanted BRAVE, Pixar's newest offering, to be a huge, soaring triumph. I'm sure you've read reviews that said that BRAVE is merely acceptable, that the story is predictable and the humor childish, and unfortunately, that's all true. It doesn't have the same crossover appeal as Pixar's other movies (I watched Monsters, Inc. this afternoon and enjoyed it every bit as much as I did when I watched it at age seven) or the heart. It's not only not a very good Pixar movie, it's not a very good kid's movie (and there are some seriously stinky kids' movies out there, let me tell you). 
     The heroine of BRAVE, a scottish princess named Merida, seems like Pixar's weak attempt at a Disney princess-- and indeed, she combines the worst traits of The Little Mermaid's rebellious Ariel and Mulan's titular heroine (as well as sharing her aversion to arranged marriages). The problem is, her character never really gets beyond this. She puts her own selfish desire for a "free" life above the good of the kingdom, refusing to marry one of the suitors from the other clans and putting her mother (who is also, mind you, the queen) in danger. Although in the end she makes a speech in which she comes close to apologizing for this narcissism and choosing a suitor, the crisis of any real sacrifice is quickly averted and she moves on, her character statically bratty.
      The view of mother-daughter relationships in BRAVE is also seriously concerning. Her mother is portrayed as bossy and ruthless because she-- I don't know, doesn't want weapons on the table? (Most of the movie, I was on the mother's side-- Merida needed a good spanking). However, if Merida's character remains immobile, the mother is the one who "grows" in this flick-- grows into a worse parent, that is. After Merida transforms her into (Spoiler Alert? I guess?) into a bear in a selfish attempt to "change her fate", Merida treats her like a large, dull pet, and the mother is so impressed by Merida's foraging abilities that she realizes she has been wrong to force Merida to be someone who she isn't and goes on to say that she should do "what her heart tells her to", which is probably the worst advice a mother could give to a daughter.
     BRAVE is really too uninspired to carry any seriously damaging message. There's some druid  magic and witchcraft, poorly explained, lots of crude jokes and naked bottoms the likes of which we're used to seeing from Dreamworks, not Pixar, and a whole hodgepodge of cliches such as "follow your heart" and "change your fate" and of course, "be brave", but none of them really mean anything-- they're just words that are meant to imbue the movie with heart or meaning (a purpose at which, I must say, the fail oftener than they succeed).
    The ultimate flaw of the movie, artistically and even morally, is the lack of development: it starts with Merida changing her own fate in what is, I presume and hope, meant to be an obviously selfish and repugnant way, and ends with her "fate" changing-- just the way she wanted it, with a lot of danger and inconvenience to her family and kingdom along the way. At the risk of sounding boorish, and yes, I know that this would make for a dull narrative, the truly BRAVE thing for Merida to have done would have been to marry one of the suitors, even if they didn't make butterflies tickle her tummy, you know, just for the tiny purpose of KEEPING THE KINGDOM FROM FALLING INTO WAR. But instead, she opts for a route that puts her mother, brothers, and eventually entire kingdom, in terrible danger. As it is, a more apt moniker for the movie would be SELFISH.
   I sincerely hope that Pixar's winning streak isn't over. Yes, BRAVE is predictable and crude, yes, Cars 2 wasn't good either, but Toy Story 3 was, and Up was, and the nine other movies before those were. So hopefully, this is just a slight hiccup, not the decline of a great movie studio. I'll be awaiting Monsters University most eagerly.

Also, regarding the title of this post: no, my grammar is not that terrible, it's a MEME, people. You have internets, you should know this.

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