Saturday, 25 August 2012

BRAVE ***½

USA: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell, 2012

IMDB reference

Everyone seems to be talking about BRAVE in relation to its superiority over Pixar's last film CARS 2. Now whilst I don't feel that film was the travesty many claim, I concur with the logic that it felt alarmingly anonymous to the point of being interchangeable with the glut of studio produced animated dross which is now churned out year on year.

BRAVE promised a return to Pixar's basics: a new and originally conceived idea brought to fruition by a team of talented filmmakers helmed by a new talent from within. Written by Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi and directed by Andrews, Chapman and Purcell - BRAVE tells the story of Scottish Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) and her efforts to rebel against the expectations of her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson).

Set against breathtaking vistas of the Scottish highlands (reportedly Pixar rewrote their animation software in order to fully realise such complex animation) the familiar tale of child and parent tension is interspersed with flashbacks to historic clan-folklore and elements of the supernatural.

However, despite this supposed originality BRAVE feels more like the work of other animation studios. The music, plot structure and on-the nose sentimentality (a character even spells out the character arc of change by saying 'We both have'... yuck!) all smacks of parent company Disney. But perhaps more worryingly the film's humour and characterisation (particularly in the design and portrayal of Billy Connolly's Fergus) at times made me feel as though I was watching a DreamWorks film like HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON.

Ultimately, whatever it's flaws BRAVE is another fine example of the lush and rich animation Pixar can create. It has likeable characters and a fun diverting plot which entertains more than the much derided CARS 2. Although, I cannot say BRAVE is an unqualified success: expectation plays a big part and for a group of filmmakers who have produced masterpieces such as TOY STORY, WALL-E and UP putting out a merely 'good' film is now inevitably problematic.

The Count's Verdict: Kudos to Pixar for returning to an original idea after recent and planned sequels, however, the execution never reaches the emotional maturity or story-telling majesty of their best work. Has this animation studio's unrivalled 'golden-age' now come to an end?

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