The only real problem with Brave is its title. The title doesn’t really reflect what to movie is about. It does better fit in with Pixar’s usually concise titles (Cars, Up, Toy Story) than The Bear and the Bow, but Brave is actually about a bear and a bow. It is not very much about bravery. That is not to say that either of main characters lack courage, but that is not the focus of the movie. Title aside, Brave is as excellent as most of the rest of Pixar oeuvre. It doesn’t quite shine as brightly as their very best, but it is far from the worst.
While much was made of Brave being the first Pixar film with a female protagonist, the most novel part of the story is its focus on a mother daughter relationship. Most animated movies, even those that star women, don’t usually deal with mothers and daughters. I can think of tons of movies, specifically children’s animated movies, that are about friends of either genre, fathers and sons, fathers and daughters and even mothers and sons, but very few mother daughters. Being neither a mother nor a daughter, I can’t say from experience how true to life the mother and daughter in Brave are, but from what I’ve seen of real people it seemed real.
What absolutely rang true were the conflicts of teenagers and their parents. Merida wants to be free to choose her path through life, not tied down by her parent’s decisions. Her parents want what’s best for her and with their greater wisdom and experience have a different idea of what that is. It is an easily relatable situation. The parents are almost always right, they generally do know best, but the heart of the problem is that teenagers are wanting to make the choices and assert their independence. It is a rich vein for drama and Brave mines it wonderfully.
Visually, Brave is one of Pixar’s best. There are some great landscapes and scenery. The body language of the characters is also terrific. Especially the mother as [spoiler] the bear. The sound is largely good, except for some ill-fitting and generally awful vocal songs. They are downright illusion breaking, making their bits in the movie flat out hard to watch. The main characters, father, daughter and mother, are all well developed and most of the side characters are fun without overstaying their welcome. In fact, I wanted to see more of the other lords before the end of the movie.
As good as Brave is, I would say it almost feels more like a classic Disney movie than a Pixar one. Of course, any such feeling is nebulous. It might just be Brave’s fairy tale trappings. Whatever, I thought Brave felt more like Aladdin or Sleeping Beauty than Toy Story or Up. Not that all those movies aren’t excellent, but there is a different feel to them. Either way, Brave is a worthy addition to Pixar’s resume.