2012, dir. Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell
With the exception of the Cars franchise I absolutely love the Pixar films. The fact that my 3-year old is a huge fan of their catalog and seemingly endless repeated viewings has only deepened my appreciation for the craft and creativity that went into the story and visual representation of these films. Films I didn't care all that much for at first, like Monsters, Inc. and A Bugs Life have become favourites, and even the first Cars film I've kind of warmed to, if only slightly. Their track record in recent years (Cars 2 excluded) has been phenomenal. Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 were all highlights in cinema in their respective years, and some of the best films ever made.
I was wary when Pixar announced their major slate of sequels, with an even split of the surprisingly phenomenal Toy Story 3 and the commercial cash cow of Cars 2 eating up the Pixar release slots for the past two year not exactly assuaging my concern that Pixar was more concerned with selling toys and maintaining the prominence of licensed properties than telling incredible stories. With Monsters University on the schedule for next summer, Brave was the great hope for an original tale and a reminder of what made Pixar the company that changed animation forever.
The previews for Brave were exciting, revealing that the film, for the first time in Pixar`s history, would feature a female protagonist. Of course, in true Disney fashion, this protagonist just had to be a princess, but the lengthy sneak peak that cropped up before many movies showed her to be strong-willed and action-oriented, which I hoped would lead to an exciting and grand adventure centered around this Celtic royal.
Instead, we got a film about mommy issues, a slapstick bear, a trio of mischievous siblings, a less inspired protagonist and a much smaller-scale adventure than I had anticipated.
I can hardly express my disappointment with this movie. I was completely blindsided by the mother-daughter storyline, not that I was abject to it, as I thought their strained relationship was handled well early on. But once the Queen was turned into a bear and the pantomiming began I couldn't help but groan at almost every turn. I did not like that story element, and given as it's central to the film there wasn't much else to focus upon. I never warmed to it, because that damn bear-mom never ceased to be ridiculous. That Princess Merida's younger triplet siblings also become adorable swollen eyed bear cub, even more precocious in their transformation, it was almost too much to handle. Wasn't this roughly the plot of Disney's flop(ish) Brother Bear at the tail end of their traditional animation days? (I don't know, I never saw it).
Brave might not be as terrible as my initial disappointment has made it out to be in my head, and I'm sure that my daughter's Pixar fascination will no doubt lead me to repeated viewings of the movie to make up my mind further, but it really did leave a sour taste in my mouth. It's pedestrian story certainly didn't live up to the standard of Pixar that I've held the company to. In my unofficial rankings of the company's product it's actually sitting behind Cars and just ahead of Cars 2 at the bottom of the list.