Thursday, 23 August 2012

Brave (2012, Andrews, Chapman, Purcell)

Pixar's latest doesn't hit the heights of the studio's last three offerings, nor does it try to by forcing pretension upon a story that simply doesn't require anything more than it needs. Brave is a nuts and bolts coming-of-age adventure with all the added heart, passion, and professionalism now fully expected from the studio. It's a universal message of parent/child conflict and the weight of taking control of one's life.

The story follows young Scottish princess Merida whose interests lie more in archery and swordplay than they do the prim and elegant ways of her Queen mother. As the time comes for Merida to choose a suitor for her hand in marriage, the youngster both red in blood and hair, defies her mother's arranged amalgamation at the cost of a fallout between the two of them. A dodgy spell from a dubious witch flings the story into despair as Merida and her mother learn to equate their feelings for one another . The culmination is a real "I've learned something today" affair but a deeply affecting one at that.

Pixar have nearly always managed to effortlessly meld the sensibilities of their child and adult audiences with their productions, while other lesser studios (Dreamworks) tend to offer a one for the child, one of the parent way of delivery. Brave doesn't quite remit the quality of humour and wit that operates simultaneously with older and younger spectators, instead there's certainly a divide of interest when it comes to the entertainment factor. As characters stumble and crash about in a clumsy manner, the kids go wild with laughter while adults have digested enough already. When it comes to the melodramatic moments of reconciliation one can imagine the infant mind longing for another bear to fall over, or for a fight to break out. Still, this slight lapse of composure hardly burdens the overall quality as adult audience members will surely be wishing to be 5 years old again; able to soak up the magic of such stories without the jaded eyes of experience. Though Pixar's films may not be able to grant such outlandish wishes, they still have the power to take people of all ages on a trip of childlike wonder. Who else working today has the masterly talents and heart to match like they do?

Brave seems to revel in the simplicity of its storytelling, a love letter to the tales of old that inform our methods and influence us almost unknowingly hundreds of years on. Some critics have commented that it isn't Pixar's best offering, sometimes veering on snobbery through their 'disappointment'. I'll stand by the fact that this certainly isn't, as the title may incline towards, the bravest attempt by Pixar; in fact the film shows them at their most comfortable, but contented in a craft built to unprecedented levels of skill and innovation. Part of you may feel like you've seen Brave before but that is the film's ethos; that we've seen this story before and will certainly see it again, one way or another. When the story is told and felt as well as this, I fail to see the slightest problem.

An utterly funny and spellbinding treat for the eyes; Brave may not go toe-to-toe with the likes of Toy Story or Wall-E but delivers a dynamic magical adventure with one hell of a heroine at its core. With all that Pixar have gifted us with already, I don't think we can really ask for much more than that.

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