Nonstop Movies: ‘Brave’

Pixar, the studio that produced crowd pleasing favorites such as “Toy Story” and “The Incredibles,” features its first-ever female protagonist with a story of a Scottish princess named Merida in “Brave.”

Merida’s look, with her bushy red locks of hair, is fabulous. The rest of the movie? Not so much.

The primary conflict in “Brave” is between Merida (Kelly MacDonald) and her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). This wouldn’t be the first time a Disney movie featured a queen as the villain, but instead of her being evil, she simply wants her daughter to be polished and ladylike so she can marry her off to one of the heirs of the rival clans and unite their kingdoms. Merida, however, wishes to stay independent and be able to choose her suitor when she’s ready.

Despite Pixar’s efforts to portray Merida as a strong, independent and free-spirited woman, she comes off bratty and selfish. After a huge fight with her mother over her betrothal, she runs off into the woods pouting, wishing her mother would change. Led to a mysterious cottage in the woods by a trail of will-o-the-wisps, she encounters a witch who agrees to grant her wish to change her mother. Change her mother “how” is the question Merida should have asked at that point, but she is too blinded by her own desires to ask.

The film’s lack of a well thought out screenplay leaves suspicion of its true intent. Pixar’s offering last summer “Cars 2” was mostly deemed an unnecessary film and viewed as an unimaginative sell-out. While I can see the potential for a good film in “Brave,” the story doesn’t contain the emotional resonance of Pixar’s past successes such as “Up” and “Wall-E.” It’s as if the movie was written with specific scenes and concepts in mind, but without a comprehensive method of fitting them together.

Merida’s ability as an archer is marketed heavily in the trailers, but is really of no significance in the film after the first act. Then she and the Queen are gone from the castle for an entire day, and the King has no idea that they’ve been missing for nearly 24 hours. And I don’t want to spoil anything, but a character appears near the end without any explanation as to how he could have been around for such a long time. Flaws in the writing such as these really don’t allow you to get engrossed in the film. Two awkward pop songs forced into the movie don’t help matters either.

Be aware also that the movie is rated PG, unlike all other previous Pixar films, which were rated G. The film does feature some pretty intense elements such as violent bear attacks and dark sorcery, so it may be too scary for little children.

“Brave” opens in theaters today.