Pixar’s latest animated film “Brave” features lush animation, grand character design and a Scottish setting that sets it far apart from your standard cartoon.
What’s missing is that Pixar magic, the sense that you’re witnessing a story no other film studio could tell in quite the same way.
The “Toy Story” films have it. So do “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo” and “Up.”
But “Brave” is content to tell a simple story with one-dimensional characters, the kind any ol’ studio could wrassle up with the right amount of animators, marketing tie-ins and cash.
The film opens with potential that it slowly but surely squanders. Young, feisty Merida (Kelly Macdonald, “No Country for Old Men”) isn’t your typical princess. She’s brash and independent, and she’s a whiz with a crossbow. But her loving, traditional parents (Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly) just want her to accept an arranged marriage and behave like a princess should.
That simply won’t do, so Merida does all she can to thwart their intricate plans. She shows up her potential suitors – a group of hapless young men hardly worth her time – with a grand display of archery and thumbs her nose at both tradition and her royal duties.
So far, so promising. Merida is a spitfire worthy of her own film, and one senses a wondrous series of episodes meant to bring daughter and parents together in some homespun fashion. The pieces are all in place, and the splendid Scottish landscapes seem incapable of supporting anything other than a bold and beautiful tale.
And then “Brave” takes a silly turn, transforming one key character and turning the entire story into a frantic – and oh, so common – yarn.
The film’s Celtic music aligns perfectly both the landscapes and wonderful vocal performances. Connolly in particular matches Merida’s father as a larger than life comic creation. What a shame that all these intriguing new Pixar confections must run through a series of chases, escapes and reunions that could have been compiled from any other animated feature.
“Brave” features the pluckiest of heroines – a first for Pixar – but the studio simply won’t give her an adventure worth her mettle.
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