First off, this film was visually delightful. The panoramas of mythic Highlands, atmospheric forest scenes, and above all Merida's fiery corona of hair are breathtaking to watch. Unfortunately, I watch films for the story, not the eye candy. And unlike Pixar predecessors "Finding Nemo" and "Up", the story of "Brave" never lives up to its stunning visuals. The story centers around Merida, a princess in the rebellious tradition. The film's portrayal of Merida isn't quite sure what it wants to be, or maybe it wants to be too many things at the same time. Is she a butt-kicking Action Girl? A strong female standing up to sexist tradition? A misunderstood teenager? A spoiled brat in need of some growing up? As Pixar's first female protagonist, there's a lot of pressure, but in trying to be all things to all people, it comes across rather forced. For example, Merida is an excellent archer (and a fearless horsewoman)...but in the crucial action sequences her archery has little effect, and she ends up needing to be rescued (although not by a prince). In the conflict between her and her mother, the strait-laced Queen Elinor, Merida raises some points that are hard to argue with from a modern pov—she doesn't want to wear dresses so tight she can't breathe or marry a man she hasn't met—but she goes about it in such a immature way that I sympathized with her harassed mother instead. Some of her actions are so selfish and short-sighted that I cringed in my seat. True, she grows throughout the film, but there was not enough time spent on HOW she grew. Queen Elinor, likewise, has to go through a transformation (in more ways than one), but the onscreen development didn't seem to match the amount of change she goes through. While the story is more a mother-daughter bonding piece than the epic adventure promised by trailers, it still suffers from a lack of driving plot. Storylines enter, meander a bit, and then languish until they are patched back in for the resolution. The characters are decently interesting, but much less three-dimensional than Pixar's usual fare. The jokes are surprisingly crude for Disney/Pixar and lack the cleverness I would expect from the latter. Overall, "Brave" is a good film, that many companies could be proud of. Just not Pixar. I don't expect good from Pixar; I expect great. And this film just wasn't it.
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