Brave, Packed Theatre Full of Kids, I’d Say We Are

My husband and I have been Pixar fans since watching “Toy Story” (1995) at the theatre as newlyweds. While the digital animation took a bit of getting used to, the story was engaging and we were transported to our childhoods with such an imaginative film. Since then, we have watched all the subsequent Pixar films (except for Cars 2) with enjoyment (except Cars, that I just tolerated).

Now, 17 years later, we were back at the theatre for Pixar’s latest effort, “Brave” on opening night with our 2 daughters. The short film (one always precedes a Pixar Feature Film) “La Luna” was adorable, beautiful and inspired. To say more would be to give too much away. In 7 wordless minutes, a beautiful coming of age story unfolded, as a boy proved himself a worthy participant in the family business.

“Brave” told the story of a Scottish girl named Merida who was a Highland clan princess. She was to be betrothed and she found herself in a battle of wills with her mother who wanted her to behave like a lady. Merida was revealed to us as a “tomboy” as we watched her ride, shoot arrows and climb mountains. She clearly demonstrated to her mother that she had no interest in marriage, but the point seemed lost. Oh, it was a tale so true to my heart. I felt her acute discomfort as she tried to move her arms while wearing her fancy dress. I had a memory flash of being pinned down and forced to wear a skirt for my grade 5 “graduation” ceremony. How she and her mom eventually learned to understand each other involved some magic, an ancient legend and a lot of slapstick humor, thanks to 3 imps for brothers. The characters were forgetable and clichéd (oafish father, interchangeable identical triplet brothers, caricatures for clansmen). The story was a bit too predictable. Since it was a children’s movie, I couldn’t help feel that the stakes were not too high during some of the battle scenes and the climax.

The animation was breath-taking. The faces were so detailed. Merida’s mane of unruly orange curls were so detailed, I resisted the urge to try to run a brush through them, in hopes of untangling them. The grass and foliage moved naturally to an invisible breeze. I loved the idea of a female lead in a Pixar film, and a tomboy as well would have been too much to hope for. I loved that she felt that there was more to her life that just marriage (take that Bella Swan) even if she didn’t exactly know what that was yet. There were many laugh out loud moments, which made for a fun time in a packed theatre, full of kids (even if they were kicking my seat), on opening night.

I really enjoyed “Brave”, but it is definitely 2nd tier Pixar with regard to story. To be fair, 2nd tier Pixar is still so much better that 95% of films aimed at children (such as the Madagascar series, UGH!). Visually it was STUNNING. We saw it in 2D, on purpose. In fact we drove to a neighboring city to do so, as our local theatre only had a 3D showing. Would I watch it again, probably not. I would rather watch “The Incredibles” for the third, or would it be the fourth or fifth time?

It is still my favorite Pixar and favorite superhero film. The other films which I consider 1st tier Pixar are Toy Story (all 3 installments), Finding Nemo and Up.

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