Unlike Pixar’s past hits, Brave (2012) succumbs to cheap gags and empty jokes which litter the meandering plot like so much refuse and are undoubtedly directed at the ten and below crowd. The plot feels hollow, as if the writers knew how they wanted to begin and end their tale, and upon deciding that filled the space between with a series of unconnected fragments (we can watch Queen Elinor-as-a-bear try to use silverware, and after that gag they can go fishing!).
Still, Brave has two redeeming factors:
1. Merida (Kelly MacDonald of Boardwalk Empire) is Pixar’s first female protagonist. I’m going to briefly stop here, because this deserves emphasis. Brave features Pixar’s first female protagonist. It took them thirteen feature films and seventeen years to write a movie where the plot didn’t revolve around the actions of men. Merida is independent and in the process of growing, and she rebels against the problematic creation story her mother describes; a story that can be summarized as “if you don’t get married, the kingdom will collapse.” While this applies to the male heirs in Brave as much as Merida herself, it references the predictable Disney princess plot that, thankfully, the movie bucks. While she is a princess, Merida is not cursed or orphaned, she doesn’t have an evil stepmother, there isn’t a villain plotting her death, and her actions aren’t driven by her love for a dashing prince. Instead, her parents are alive and in love, and what she faces are the consequences of her own decisions.
2. Brave is one of Pixar’s first time embedding a movie in a specific historical-cultural sense of place (i.e. medieval Scotland). The landscape is beautiful, and the film includes a handful of fun Scottish references. For example, the nearly unintelligible language spoken by one of her suitors––a running gag throughout the movie––is actually the doric dialect, which originates in northeast Scotland and is still spoken by people there today. The little blue Wil-o’-the-wisps? Actually a scientifically explained phenomenon. Granted, they don’t chirp or lead you places, but they are bog gasses that look blue at a certain distance, but then disappear as you approach.
And, as with every Pixar movie, the Pizza Planet truck is featured, as well as a small picture in the likeness of Sully from Monsters Inc. Did you guys find the easter eggs?