Saturday, June 23, 2012

'Brave' Review - Pixar's Moving and Beautiful Tale of Family Soars

When I see the name Pixar, I know that their is quality behind the product. Their are few studios that can hold a candle to the output that Pixar has put out the last twenty five years, be it films or shorts. This is their thirteenth film, and once again, Pixar knocks it out of the park. Many expected that 'Cars 2' was the beginning of the downfall of the company, but that couldn't be farther from the case. Pixar's newest film, 'Brave', is full of the things that I've always loved about their films such as humor, an amazing cast, beautiful animation, adventure, and plenty of heart, while bringing something new to the table: a fairytale. This is, for me, not only one of the strongest films in Pixar's filmography, but one of my personal favorites. 

The Scottish kingdom of DunBroch is thriving. With the noble King Fergus and his wife, Queen Elinor, at his side, the kingdom couldn't be in better hands. Merida, their daughter and headstrong princess, wants nothing more than freedom. She loves her family, but her mother's constant nagging is driving her to a breaking point. When the Lords of three different clans are invited to the castle, they are asked to bring their first born sons with them to present and compete for Merida's hand in marriage. Completely appalled by this, Merida competes with her own hand, which begins to put the country into turmoil. She escapes into the forest, hoping to change her fate somehow. Coming across a witch, she makes deal that can do just that. But things don't go as Merida was hoping, and she finds that her family is much more important than she had believed, and that being selfish to make things the way she wanted may not be the way to go about things.

First and foremost, I can't help but point out just how gorgeous the film looks. This is Pixar at its absolute best, which is nothing more than breathtaking. They've come along away from their 'Toy Story' days. The characters are all incredibly well animated and really look great. For their first fairytale, they really got the look and feel of them. Everything from the Scottish hillsides, the castle, and the forest are nothing short of stunning. I just can't speak highly enough of how beautiful the movie really looks. I shouldn't expect any less from Pixar, but they manage to surprise me more and more every time. 

The film is very well directed by directors Brenda Chapman ('The Prince of Egypt') and Mark Andrews, in his feature film directional debut. Andrews replaced Chapman back in 2010, when Brenda couldn't see eye to eye with Pixar, but without her, the movie wouldn't have existed. She conceived the story and began production on the film, and I think the two of them really brought this movie so beautifully to life. Usually when movies go through changes like that, it doesn't bode well for the film, but for me, 'Brave' wasn't hurt by the changeover, and in fact, I think it could have helped it. The idea is nothing short of wonderful, and I'm glad that these two really pulled out the stops to pulled this off. While many will say the twist half way through the movie, which I won't reveal here, is predictable, I beg to differ. I think it works really well for the movie. It's also great that going into the movie, I didn't know much about it from the trailers. Nothing was spelled out, keeping the mysteries and questions about the movie up until the opening logo of the film. It's not many times that I get to fully experience a movie like that, and I'm glad to see I did here, and it worked. 

I can't really talk about a Pixar movie without bringing up the score, which Patrick Doyle has done here. It's an incredibly moving score, and it really compliments the movie well. The Scottish music just sores and breathes life into the film, really making it almost its own character. It's just beautiful and sweeping, something I could listen to over and over again. The movie is also chock full of humor and emotion. Much of the humor comes from Merida's little brothers, King Fergus, and the Three Lords. They really lighten up the movie, which is actually slightly darker for Pixar standards, but not by much. The comedy is great, and thankfully, doesn't feel out of place. But where there is humor, there is also a lot of heart and emotion. I'll admit that I began to tear up, and maybe even shed a few tears, by the end of the movie. I really connected with Merida and her story with her parents. The way it plays out is so beautiful and moving, and I feel like it's hard not to connect and feel something for it.

But a Pixar movie doesn't work without a great cast, and what a cast they've assembled here. First, we have Kelly Macdonald ('Boardwalk Empire', 'No Country For Old Men') as the headstrong Princess Merida. She is fantastic as the character, and brings so much life to the spunky and wonderful character. I completely fell in love with her character, and a lot of that has to do with Kelly's fantastic voice work. But the great casting doesn't stop there. Her father, King Fergus is played by non other than Billy Connolly ('The Boondock Saints' films, 'The Last Samurai'), who is probably my favorite supporting character in the movie. His hilarious, but when he has to be serious, really delivers. Connolly is just a great actor, and I loved what he brought to the character. Then there's Emma Thompson ('Harry Potter' series, 'Nanny McPhee') as Queen Elinor. She really brings a strong, loving, but stern voice to the family, and she's great as the character. The problem is, I can't help but hate her at points, because maybe she is a bit too overbearing, but that's the character. And Thompson is great at doing it, which means she really pulls it off. Then we have some great supporting cast including Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane, and Kevin McKidd as the Scottish Lords. I loved their characters, and each got a moment to shine, especially Ferguson as Lord Macintosh. I just can't get over how great the cast is. It really helps elevate the movie, and they're all so great in it, that I think they may be one of my favorite voice casts in a movie period. I loved them all so much in it.

'Brave' is a wonderful film, and one of Pixar's best. It's just another strong film out the gate for the studio, which proves to me that they're still one of the strongest ones in the business. Many are already saying that the downfall of Pixar has begun, but I couldn't disagree more. Despite what the naysayers say, 'Brave' is a strong film with an excellent cast, an amazing score, beautiful animation, and so much humor and emotion. This is Pixar at its finest, and I can easily admit this is one of my favorite Pixar films, period. Some may not agree, but if a movie can really touch your emotions the way it did for me, I think it has done its job, and I can't ask for anything more from it. In the end, I'm glad to report that Pixar has once again knocked another film out of the park. I can't wait to see what they do next year with 'Monsters University'. 

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  1. The first 30 minutes or so had me pumped up like no other but once that big twist in the story happens, it all goes downhill from there. However, kids will love the heck out of this film and you can’t go wrong with them. Nice review PJ.

    1. Thanks, DTMMR. The twist really didn't go downhill for me, simply because I loved how it played out. I really understand the strained relationship with family, so I guess the emotions really got to me. That in and of itself really makes the movie great. If it can make me tear up and what not, then I definitely think it has something to offer. Thanks for reading my review! :)

  2. I am finallllllly going to see Brave this week! I can't wait! Great review- I love the casting! Kelly MacDonald was such a perfect choice! And Craig Ferguson & Kevin McKidd are two of my favorites! Im so stoked!

    1. Thanks, Mel! :) The cast is definitely awesome. Part of the reason the movie is so awesome is because of them. I just really, really enjoyed the movie. I can't wait to hear what you think. You'll have to report back to me after. :)