Back-to-back duds from Pixar? What’s next — the Apocalypse?
The writing was on the wall, however, when the opening short, “La Luna,” (about two men and a little boy shoveling little stars on the moon) — so long one of my favorite ingredients of this studio — comes across as overly artsy and not at all entertaining. That is nothing compared to their latest feature, Brave, though. It’s “Braveheart” meets “Jack Frost” (not the Michael Keaton movie, but the 1965 Finno-Soviet production about witches, bears and magic spells) and it is neither artsy nor particularly entertaining but instead clunky and confusing (and boasts one of the more ridiculous conclusions in recent memory).
But, this tale of dark forests, foreboding lochs and mystical pagan symbols weaved around the tale of a teenage princess coming of age in a man’s world is certainly nowhere near as dismal as “Cars 2.”
It’s medieval Scotland and the land is ruled by King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly, “Fido“) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson, “Men in Black 3“). They have three precocious red-haired triplet boys and a rebellious teenage daughter, Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2“).
Merida, having reached the age of marriage (whatever THAT was in medieval Scotland), is forced to watch as a series of goof-balls vie for her hand. She objects to this ritual, but her mother the Queen insists on what amounts to a public humiliation of her daughter. This, predictably, creates a rift between mother and daughter, and Merida is soon running off, following a line of will-o-the-wisps straight to an evil, woodcarving witch.
Up until this point, Brave is beautiful. The lush colors of the Scottish landscape is captivating, the ethereal and beguiling blue-lit will-o-the-wisps are entrancing, the tale of the girl’s dilemma is intriguing and the cute hi-jinx of the three little boys is delightful. But once Merida, still angry over her perceived mistreatment, has a spell cast transforming her mother into a bruin, the film slows to an uncomfortable crawl (until the final showdown) and gets much too dark — especially for children expecting something entirely different.
Learning the true impact of the curse, Merida works feverishly to undo what she’s done. This leads to several pursuits including one that has her making a rousing speech to stop a war between kingdoms. The final battle, however, is quite the spectacle. Not necessarily in a good way though, as it takes place mostly in the black of night with frightening cruelty. The action is also further muddled with the unnecessary use of 3D technology. (Come to think of it, the 3D effects are more of a bane than a boost to the entire movie).
At least the voice talents of Connolly, Macdonald and others are authentic to the region and fit nicely with their respective characters.
So, sprouting from a long line of classic animated films such as “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E,” and “Up,” among others, Brave proves once again the creators of these former masterpieces are indeed fallible and vincible.
And that is a very sad reality indeed.