Last weekend, my wife was out of town, so I did something I’ve never done before. I saw a movie by myself. The fact that I did this was a testament to the movie itself. I’ve always been a big Pixar fan (all but Cars), so this had a huge draw for me. I remember seeing Toy Story in theaters and being blown away. Similar awe followed for the films The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Wall-E and Up. These are all beautifully done films with points that you can take home and think about. Toy Story was about feeling loved and finding hope in rejection as relationships change. The Incredibles was similar, but had an action twist, and added the twist of finding your identity and holding to it even when others don’t want you to, Finding Nemo was about adventures love takes us on, Wall-E had environmental and societal warnings strewn throughout a robot love story. Lastly, Up was brilliant, so much so that I had to keep from tears. It was about dealing with loss and finding new dreams even when the world seems to have left you behind. Very powerful. Squirrel!
So how was Brave? Sitting in the front right, surrounded by well behaved children (a little awkward), I was melded into the screen immediately. Visually, the views are big, and the lands are gorgeous and green. I felt a bit like seeing a cute sequel to Avatar with the huge landscape shots, and the people were so small as you panned in. It was beautiful and the whole movie remains beautiful.
The story surprised me. I figured going in, that this was going to be an action adventure, with lots of battles and witty comments ala Kung Fu Panda. It turned out to be something very different. The beginning comes off with a seemingly feminist slant, with a girl fighting for the right to make her own decisions. Seen that before. An archery contest shows off the superb talents of an excellent young woman. The middle, however, is the surprise (and I won’t spoil it for you, which will make me suddenly seem vague, but it is for your own good). But I will say that the story slows down where you might expect action. There is a magical component – it feels more Disney (which probably makes sense since Pixar is under their umbrella), and a fairy tale takes place. There is even a musical montage in the woods. It was very interesting. Then at the end, the action breaks loose again, characters who seemed subdued are unleashed. Conflict moves towards resolution and the plot seems uncertain – and a new enemy erupts.
The overall theme that came through this, was “Family”. There is a bumbling father (a common stereotype), lively and mischievous triplet boys, and a very proper mother. The interactions of this family were heart warming at times and when they collided, the children in the theater were delighted. There was plenty of laughter all around me. No wiggling, I was surprised.
**SPOILER ALERT** For those with children, I will mention that there is a dark dark Bear that becomes an antagonist – a dark force for evil. It reminded me of the Dragon in Sleeping Beauty from my own childhood, or the Wolf from The Never Ending Story. Something a child will not forget, but is good for them to fight the fear of. I think it is still a good film for small children. I did notice that Fathers and Mothers immediately used the Bear at the end of the movie as a talking point with their children, perhaps worrying that it was a bit too scary. The kids seemed fine.
If you are interested in seeing a beautifully and colorful animated film with lots of laughs, and a fight for the family orientation, I recommend this movie. There is a relationship between mother and daughter in this film that could really teach young ladies to respect why mothers expect so much of them (or their mentors, in the absence of a mother figure). Check it out and let me know what you think.