After an inexplicable detour into crass commercial filmmaking with last year’s dreadful Cars 2, Pixar is back in top form with Brave, a supremely entertaining combination of drama, comedy, and magic. I knew this film would be enchanting, but I wasn’t really prepared for how funny it would be. The ads didn’t make the plot of the film very clear, but the turn of events that take place are unexpected and hilarious. But of course, as also to be expected, the film is ultimately moving and winning, ending on an uplifting note that, while a bit predictable, works wonders.
Brave is noteworthy for being the first Pixar movie to feature a female character in the lead—which, considering this is their thirteenth production, seems far overdue. 2012 has been the year of the strong female warrior—think Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, and Snow White in the newest incarnation of the classic fairy tale—and the strong-willed ginger Merida makes a great addition to the list. While this story may be set a long time ago, her personality and values couldn’t be more modern day. She’s a great role model for all the young girls in the audience, and even the boys are apt to fall in love with her wit and spirit.
Visually, as to be expected, the film looks gorgeous—so much is set outside in the Scottish countryside, with overhead shots of meadows and forests, and ferocious bears hiding in the trees. I was also in awe of something subtle but important—Merida’s long curly red hair. I remember watching a special on the original Toy Story years and years ago where the animators said that they had to apply the hair on Andy, Sid, and the others one hair at a time. It’s amazing to see in seventeen years just how much the characters’ hair design have evolved and strengthened.
Although Brave isn’t on the same level of Pixar’s best—it’s a little too predictable and cutesy at times, with a plot point involving a witch that seemed to be lifted out of Fairy Tale Storytelling 101—it’s one of the company’s funniest movies. I probably laughed more in Brave than I have in any Pixar film since Finding Nemo. While the mother-daughter relationship in Brave is certainly poignant, there’s no emotional moment in the film that comes close to the opening sequence of Up, or the final twenty minutes of Toy Story 3. The movie is fast-paced and fun, and that’s enough this time around.