Friday, 10 August 2012


PG, 2012, Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd

  Toys, Monsters, Superheroes, Cars, Waste-collecting robots; the Pixar list goes on, and will continue to do so as long as Pixar effortlessly manage to sustain their excellence, amidst some signs of - not so much stalling, than slowing down (the critical derision of Cars 2 from everybody bar 8-year old boys forms the integrity of that statement.) Fresh ideas may be sapping, with their last original offering being 2009’s Up - as well as two more sequels in the works - but with Pixar, (emphasis on the word 'but',) there’ll never be any empirical reason to lose faith.
Their latest, however, faces challenges: people have become content revisiting beloved characters, whether it’s Woody, Buzz or Lightning McQueen. Somewhat interestingly, one common link between the entire Pixar back-catalogue is that female leads are pretty scarce. So perhaps in an attempt to prove they are still the leading animated classic-churner in the movie kingdom, head honchos unveil Brave: an original fairytale about a Princess. Set in Scotland. It is fair to say excitement has been lower on the league table than with previous outings - with production troubles meaning female director Brenda Chapman and title The Bear and the Bow departed the shoot, paving the way for Mark Andrews to take the reigns - but it is very probable this may have worked in its advantage. After a solid opening proves that there is no fear in making the younger audience members fly off seats in fright, it grows ever apparent that Pixar still defy fear to transcend what is expected of them. Using their princess protagonist as a tool, Merida is a force to be reckoned with. Enduring her expectant day-to-day princess rituals, she showcases her desire for adventure through narration and visual spectacle that further prove Pixar can deprive you of breath easier than CG-driven live action set-pieces. Voiced by Kelly Macdonald, she is the heart and soul of the piece, with reliance on the audience taking to this character to embrace the end product. If at first you are put off by the talky folklore dialogue and Merida’s reckless attitude, by the film’s end you will more than likely have accepted her, not just down to the fire-haired teenage princess’s trajectory. The support surrounding her each select their attempts to show-steal; Billy Connolly’s King Fergus, a peg-legged booze-guzzler, or even Emma Thompson’s Queen Elinor, who gets embroiled into the film’s overarching plot in a way one genuinely might not expect via Julie Walters' bizarrly-concepted witch. 

Strip everything back however, and Brave – whether you like it or not – falls short of the mark. Perhaps this is due to the instant-classic nature of the studio’s previous, downright braver, efforts. But Brave’s most noble element is its insistence on not trying to better what has come before, instead opting to provide something on a smaller-scale than what no doubt will come next (Monsters, Inc. gets the prequel treatment next summer in Monsters University.) Meaning it's easier to embrace the film’s redeeming qualities, threatening to glow even brighter with a re-watch – if Brave even lingers long enough in your brain to warrant another.

The world sits even tighter for the return of Sully and Wazowski.