Brave, Braver, Bravest
There are very few studios about which one can make the claim that not a single bad film has been released under their auspices. Well, one could make the claim about literally any studio… Nonetheless there remains only one example where, whether the propositioned agrees or disagrees, one would not come across as dangerously delusion, or criminally insane. Pixar, holders of this improbable accolade, have skirted disasters in releasing a few subpar films but, given the vast and yawning chasm between their par and that of their corporate masters in its own heyday, they continue to exist in some rarefied stratospheric realm. Probably of their own making and, henceforth, most-likely rendered in brilliantly detailed CGI and in a version of 3D which doesn’t ruin its own intentions and give people headaches. And then there was Brave.
There are certain spectacles on offer; Kelly Macdonald plays Merida with a zealous belligerence and exuberant wilfulness which mark her out as an unusually engaging lead for someone playing out such a stock plot and, though this might sound odd, the animation of her flaming red and copper hair is so fantastic it’s actually quite a sad moment when you realise that you’ll never see its like in real life… At least that’s how I feel… and Billy Connelly & Emma Thompson are as funny and dramatically engrossing as they, respectively, usually are, but Brave doesn’t approach the quality of Pixar’s best even when the physicality and physical comedy involves some of the best CGI I’ve ever seen. Brave is not, by any stretch, a bad film. It’s not a mediocre film, or even a good film. It’s a very good film which just doesn’t feel like it belongs in the Pixar stable.
Apart from the obvious flair in the execution it’s a straight-forward fairy tale, the kind Disney cut its teeth on in the bad old days of Walt’s drunken rages and anti-Semitic tirades (don’t sue me because I may have made some of this up), rather than having anything particularly innovative or interesting in its structure. None of this detracts from the brilliance of the animation, the script or the performances, but it’s still a film lacking that particular and peculiar magic which made such unlikely prospects as WALL•E and Ratatouille not only work but into exemplary examples of what could be done in cinema. Go, enjoy going, go back if you enjoy going enough, but go knowing that Brave is a wonderful diversion rather than the Pixar film you will return to time and time again.