December 2, 2012

Brave (12/02/2012)

Lettergrade: C-

As I've mentioned in other posts, the arrival of our son 10 months ago has knee-capped our trips out to see current movies at the cinema, in addition to limiting our knowledge of what many recent movies are even about.

In some ways, this is a great thing:  You sit down to watch a flick with very few expectations about what you're in for, largely because you haven't seen a ton of trailers which reveal key aspects in advance.  My sister Sarah sometimes talks about how seeing The Matrix when she was living overseas in 1999 was amazing because she knew virtually nothing about it beforehand.  The flip-side of this, though, is that the early scenes of a movie can kind of set expectations that the rest of the movie doesn't follow or entirely live up to.  I'll never forget when I took my friend Ryan to see 1995's From Dusk Til Dawn...  He really enjoyed the first 40 minutes or so - where it looked like the picture was a gritty thriller about two brothers who kidnap a pastor and his family in an attempt to get across the border into Mexico.  Of course, midway though everyone arrives at a mysterious bar that happens to be a hang-out for the undead, and the film suddenly erupts into an uber-violent vampire slaughter picture ala Evil Dead 2.  Moments after the "turn" happened, I remember looking over at my buddy who was completely slack-jawed.  "This just became the stupidest movie I've ever seen," he said, and he hasn't let me live it down since.

Now, I bring all this up because we watched Pixar's Brave over the weekend, knowing virtually nothing about it in advance.  At first, it appeared to be about the fiery and independent daughter of a medieval Scottish king who does not want to be forced to marry a prince from one of the other tribes.  It was a little slap-sticky for my tastes, but I was surprised by how interested I was in the story of Merida (voiced by the ever-fetching Kelly MacDonald) and that I really cared about her right to make her own choices in life and to choose her own path.

None that ultimately mattered, though, because about 35 minutes in, the movie totally shifts gears and becomes a full-blown fairy tale, complete with an ambiguous witch and all sorts of other fantastical shit that has nothing to do with the earlier storyline at all.  I was pretty ho-hum on the "second" movie... like my friend Ryan so many years earlier, I would have really liked to see where the first one was going instead.  Was the fantastical stuff in the trailers?  Had I seen them, would I have been braced for what was coming?  Unsure, but regardless I found myself a bit unsatisfied by what actually came.

And my wife pointed out something curious... when Merida asks the witch for help in changing her parents' rigid view that she marry a royal son of another tribe, the witch responds by giving her a magic pastry that, unbeknowst to Merida, will turn her mother into a bear.  Huh?  Later in the movie we find out that there was some other asshole in the past who came to the witch and asked to have "the strength of ten men!," to which she replied by also giving him a magic pastry that turned him into a bear.  So that's it, is it?  Anytime anyone comes to this woman asking for help, a baked good that turns someone into a bear will be the universal fix-all, will it?  What bullshit.  Sounds to me like she suspiciously really only has this one trick.

And then later, I guess it's supposed to be a big reveal that it's this earlier bear who mauled off the leg of Merida's father (voiced by the wonderful Billy Connolly) in the prologue of the movie... as if that's supposed to be some kind of meaningful bombshell to the overall story.  Once the "mom-bear" shows up later, the dad leads a blood-thirsty mob against the bear with the intention of brutally killing it upon capture.  My buddy Shaun said that his five year old was extremely disturbed by this aspect of the plot, and I've got to admit that I, a 34 year old, found it to be pretty dark and fucked up myself.

But wait, let's end on some positive notes here...  Um, the animation was really amazing and pretty.  And I appreciate that they got a lot of "actually Scottish" actors to do the voices, and a real Scotsman to write the music.  And I guess it was only 85 minutes or so, making it significantly shorter and nowhere near as excruciating as Pixar's last movie, 2011's puerile Cars 2.  So... you know... all that's good, but jeeeeeeeeeesus does the story get weird.

No comments:

Post a Comment