Pixar films are always worth looking forward to and 2012’s offering is medieval Scottish set Brave. But before the feature we were treated to the obligatory Pixar short: La Luna, a cute and humourous film about a young boy being shown his family business for the first time.
The feature presentation is about the feisty Princess Merida (Kelly MacDonald) who defies the kingdom’s long running custom and falls out with her mother (Emma Thompson) in the process. She is subsequently granted a wish by a morally ambiguous witch (Julie Walters) which means she spends much of the rest of the movie undoing her own mess and, of course, learning valuable lessons along the way.
The animation is the normal excellent high standard of Pixar. The main part to impress is Merida’s long ginger locks, made up of fifteen hundred strands of rendered curly hair. In fact, new software was actually invented to allow simulation of her curls to move in conjunction with her body movements. The film took six years, three directors and four writers to make. Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt) helmed much of it initially, leaving the project in 2010. Mark Andrews (wrote John Carter and Pixar short One Man Band) took over, having consulted with Chapman regarding the Scottish themes in the early stages. Steve Purcell - whose previous work has mainly been on video games - and Irene Mecchi (The Lion King) also co-wrote/directed. They are all newcomers to Pixar features, at least in the form of writer and director, and have added a couple of firsts for the production company’s movies – never have they previously had a female protagonist or a period setting.
The story is not as engaging or verbally funny as most Pixar films and it has a scene near the end with a surprising parallel to Wall-E, however, the film is charming and aesthetically pleasing. There is certainly plenty of genuine humour, but it is mostly visual and slapstick, whether it being the cute triplet brothers causing mischief, Kevin McKidd’s (Dog Soldiers) young MacGuffin speech being intelligible (actually a form of Scottish dialect from Elgin) or King Fergus’ (Billy Connelly) general brashness and childlike manner. There are also some clever names, including Lord MacIntosh, which is a nod Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple (note the scenes of Merida with apples, too) who played a big part in Pixar and has this movie dedicated to him.
Overall, with the exception of the Cars films, this is Pixar’s weakest movie, perhaps due to the change in director, it is hard to tell. However, there is still a lot to be enjoyed here for children and adults alike; let’s just hope it is a blip rather than the start of a steady decline towards mediocrity. Monsters University, is next on the slate (yes, a prequel to 2001’s Monsters Inc). Will this be a promising Toy Story standard return or a rehashing of old ideas? The former; please, the former.
Brave will be screened at Broadway into September and shown as a part of Bringing Up Baby on Tuesday 28 August.