Mark Reviews Movies



2 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman

Cast: The voices of Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson

MPAA Rating: PG (for some scary action and rude humor)

Running Time: 1:35

Release Date: 6/22/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 21, 2012

Another gorgeous feast of stunning visuals from Pixar, Brave is set in the untamed wilds and dank castle halls of medieval Scotland, where a demonic bear roams free and terrorizes the land, the woods house ethereal spirits and a crafty witch, and the men only act civilized out of respect for their queen. It features moments of undeniable beauty and eerie atmosphere heightened by the awareness that everything on screen is once again the work of talented artists using computers to create a photorealistic world. Directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman treat the virtual locales with the respect of the real ones; the camera, as it were, hovers and flies high above the scenery so that we may see every tree, rolling hill, and manmade structure—either at the height of its glory or ruined by time.

The people within the world are far more stylized with clearly defined lines that accentuate their personalities. The father is big and brawny with a broad face and pointed chin; he's a warrior through and through. The mother's face is round and dignified; she is, in the minds of all the men around her, perfection. The heroine has fiery red hair that burns only slightly less than her desire to be her own woman; below her hairline are big, blue doe eyes. There's the innocence of an ingénue somewhere beneath her tendency to show off.

The blending of the realistic settings and the caricatures within them only helps to solidify the movie's otherworldly sense of wonder. It may look familiar, but something is amiss in the land. During the prologue, we're introduced to the central characters as well as wills-o'-the-wisp, which glow an unnatural blue and have faces not unlike the heroine's, and a massive bear named Mor'du, which possesses a face that seems to have been melted away by its burning rage (It's a shame the unnecessary 3-D diminishes so many of the finer details).

The emphasis must be placed on the sights of the movie, as the story turns into such an oddity. The family in the prologue is the royal court of the ruling clan of the land. Patriarch Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) lost his leg in the fight with Mor'du, and he has vowed revenge ever since. His wife Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson) tempers his primal urges, and she stands as her husband's equal in court and oftentimes speaks for him. She is really the one in charge here; everyone accepts that fact without bringing attention to it.

Elinor is a woman of seemingly endless patience (Especially when it comes to her troublesome triplets), but her daughter Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) is beginning to test that virtue on a regular basis. She has no patience for the life of a genteel princess—one who must give up her personal freedom for the necessity of tradition. She would rather spend her day riding her horse and shooting her bow; instead, her mother insists she learn to act like a lady.

The last straw arrives in the form of the leaders of the three other clans of the island and their firstborn sons. The boys are unappealing in their own unique ways: One is a mindless brute, the second is a narcissist who whines when he doesn't get his way, and the third barely appears capable of standing upright without assistance. Whichever of them wins a competition of Merida's choosing, Elinor announces, will be the girl's husband.

Through a loophole, Merida decides she will compete for her own hand, a decision that finally ignites the years of tension between mother and daughter into a fight. Merida runs away and finds a witch (voice of Julie Walters) in the forest. A spell—no doubt—could make Elinor change, and, in one of those "should have read the fine print" moments, Merida discovers that her use of the word "change" might not have been the best idea. Elinor transforms into a bear, which makes for inevitable domestic squabbles with potentially deadly consequences.

If the transformation metaphor seems a bit of a stretch (What parent hasn't wanted to maul his/her rebellious child in a fit of anger, and what child hasn't seen his/her parent as something of a beast with little to no concern for his/her wishes?), it is. It's an out-of-left-field turn that the screenplay (by Andrews, Chapman, Steve Purcell, and Irene Mecchi) takes, and it ultimately means watching the evolving relationship between a girl and an anthropomorphized bear. Try as hard as the animators might (And they do, transferring the prim and proper manners of a regal lady to a clumsy beast), the ungainly scenario breaks down to low comedy (Elinor attempting to fish in a stream, and the triplets' countless pranks) and too-cute sight gags (Elinor using sticks as eating utensils in her large paws, and the triplets wind up the victims of the spell cast upon their mother).

The consistency of Brave's narrative is as disorganized as the movie's artistry is accomplished. It's a movie to ogle with wide-eyed deference in between the times we're furrowing our brows in puzzlement.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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