Brave is a lesser Pixar movie, considering it goes back to many of the genre clichés that the studio has worked on so hard to break away from.

Pixar’s Brave is a joyful and poignant movie that treads territory more at home in a Disney classic than a Pixar masterpiece. Its biggest strength, apart from the fantastic animation, is in the emotions that the movie is infused with. Thus, what could have been an enjoyable but forgettable fantasy-adventure becomes a film that, despite its flaws, will continue to resonate in the mind for all the right reasons. Yet, it will be known as a lesser Pixar movie, considering it goes back to many of the genre clichés that the studio has worked on so hard to break away from.

Meredith is the first born of her parents, King and Queen of clan DunBroch in the highlands of Scotland. Despite efforts by her mother to groom her as a proper princess and a bride-to-be for one of the first born sons from the other three clans, Meredith prefers archery and horse-riding. As a rebellious teenager, she becomes the cause of much concern for her mother. When the princess breaks tradition, she unwittingly changes things for the worse. Meredith must then face her destiny and rebuild her family’s bonds to undo the curse that threatens to destroy her family and her clan.

By setting Brave in the ancient past, featuring a princess (as the protagonist, no less), and dabbling in enchantments – all a first for Pixar, but staple fare in their owner Disney’s movies – Pixar has ironically stripped the movie of the magic we have come to expect from them. It is not a stretch of imagination to assume these decisions may be less creative and more marketing oriented, and this weighs down on the movie. Unlike Pixar’s past works, Brave fails to engage in its story-telling. The existence of the characters and their predicaments, therefore, become incidental. Thus, Meredith’s rebellious actions come across as deliberate, not a byproduct of her personality. Even the movie’s final act is hasty, and unashamedly convenient. Pixar movies are known to make even minor characters interesting (think Finding Nemo or Wall-E), but Brave’s shallow point is the existence and actions of Meredith’s younger triplet brothers, an appalling recreation of Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey & Louie.

Thankfully, Brave mainly works due to Pixar’s strength in the portrayal of family (and friendship) bonds. The movie’s best portions are those between Meredith and her mother, and it is easy to identify with their frustration with each other, and also the love they share. The fantastic animation – Meredith’s lush red curls reminded me of the balloons in Up – makes it very easy on the eyes too. While Brave is undoubtedly funny, it was surprising that a lot of the humor relied on exaggerated actions of its characters, a few even bordering on rude, rather than absurd situations.

After last year’s dismal Cars 2 and announced upcoming movies Monster University (prequel to Monsters, Inc.) and Finding Nemo 2, it seems Pixar has become what was feared of it since its acquisition by Disney – a more commercially-inclined entity. While it was easy to dismiss Cars 2 as a forgiveable dent on the otherwise excellent repertoire of Pixar, Brave has also proved to be distinctly different from a “Pixar” movie. While it is quite enjoyable in its own right and would have counted among the better films of other studios, it dwarfs under the wonder and acclaim of most Pixar films. In fact, it adds to the speculation that defining a movie as a “Pixar” movie may soon not be enough to suggest the originality and standards that the name stands for.

Rating: ★★★½☆

p.s.: Following tradition, Brave is preceded by an animated short. La Luna is, to use the term, pure Pixar.

About Shariq Madani

Shariq is a social, talkative, fun-loving guy who enjoys books, food and a long drive. But his real joy is in the comfortable darkness of a cinema, watching a good movie, and later spending hours discussing it.