Brave (2012)

(On Cable TV, May 2013) While we’re still a long way from treating Pixar’s newest films as "just another animated movie", the last few offerings from this one-infallible studio have been, well, flawed.  Not bad, not terrible, just noticeably less accomplished as their best.  Brave comes at a crucial junction in the company’s history, soon after being formally acquired by Disney.  As such, it’s perhaps dismaying to find out that the narrative revolves around a princess: that particular Disney tradition feels overused enough that Pixar didn’t need to take it up as well.  But let’s not be too harsh, because Brave isn’t the usual princess-in-peril story: in fact, it’s very much a Pixar film in how it tweaks a few expectations, upends usual narrative schemes and even explores new grounds for the company in centering around a strong female character.  Our heroine Merida is very much her own young woman, and much of the film’s tension is in seeing her deal with what she wants as opposed to what is expected her… in addition to revisiting her relationship with people she knows.  The synthetic visuals of Highland Scotland are beautiful, and Pixar’s flair with CGI-enhanced direction is still as good as ever.  The story is engrossing despite a few concessions to the younger set (some easy gags, usually concerning the triplet characters), while the classic rebellious-teenager trope is handled with a fair bit of maturity.  In a few words, preconceptions may be the single worst thing running against Brave: approaching it without the burden of previous Pixar and Disney movies may be the best thing in order to appreciate the film on its own terms.

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