Brave? Not Pixar

By Esther Tung

Even Pixar has yet to learn that no amount of lush visuals and smooth rendering will make up for lacklustre storytelling

For all the noise made about Pixar coming out with their first female protagonist, praise for Brave so far has been lukewarm. Its box office numbers are nothing to sneeze at,but Brave, like many other movies as of late, focuses too much on gorgeous visuals while coming up short on storytelling.

Joining the ranks of Disney princesses is Merida, voiced by the versatile Kelly MacDonald, a Scottish princess whose unruly ginger locks must have needed its own team of animators dedicated to its follicular detail alone. Merida is a feisty teenager with a taste for solo adventuring and archery, who throws the gears into chaotic motion in her bid to rebel against her arranged marriage.

Pixar may be in the business of children’s films, but they’d do well to remember that a sizeable chunk of their audience today have put on their grown-up pants since the days of Toy Story and  A  Bug’s  Life. Brave  is a dramatic film at heart, but its potential for complexity is emptied out by too much comedy streaking through it (sometimes literally). Too many funnies are sloppily written, lazy jokes for the id.

And is Merida the feminist heroine that so many of us were hoping for? She certainly embraces some alternative roles to the other Disney princesses and female characters in the Pixar kingdom. But Merida is neither ground-breaking nor well written as a strong female character. While she fixes the trouble she creates, her spoiled-child syndrome gets in the way of any maturation or new understandings by the end of the story.

Brave’s saving grace lies in its romantic development, specifically the lack thereof. The movie angles itself squarely on the tense, but well-intentioned relationship between mother and daughter. Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) is a far more dynamic character than Merida. Her physical transformation leads to a psychological one, and it’s not often you see a woman engaged in a serious melee with her bare hands.

From a lesser production team, there would be no complains about Brave. Its opening weekend box office earnings, at $66 million, is definitive evidence that stories about women sell well, and hopefully this gives Pixar the courage to go back to their usual ,  boundary-pushing  formula with future films. And while Pixar has for the most part redeemed themselves after the Cars 2 misfire last year, Brave isn’t worthy of its studio’s classics.