billy connolly, brave, brenda chapman, emma thompson, how to train your dragon, kelly macdonald, la luna, mark andrews, pixar
“How to Train Your Princess”
Grade: B+ (RENT IT)
THE PEDIGREE THAT is Pixar Animation Studios has never featured a female in a lead role. Until now. With its ginger-haired Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald), the studio responsible for such wonders as “Up,” “Wall-E,” and “Finding Nemo,” has finally joined the twenty-first century and paradoxically turned to tenth-century Scotland to tell its quasi-feminist tale, “Brave.” Merida’s head of hair, by the way, may alone be worth the price of admission; it’s a mess of red-orange curls and bouncingly blends with the natural world around her. In a dazzling set of sequences, the young princess rides the highlands on the back of her faithful Clydesdale Angus and when frustrated with family life inside the castle walls, she escapes to a stable to vent about her buffoonish father and imperious queen of a mother. They’re the DunBrochs, a boisterous family led by uber-clansman King Fergus (Billy Connolly), a bit too similar to the Viking patriarch in “How to Train Your Dragon,” and wife Elinor (Emma Thompson), a bit too droll to make “Brave” truly spellbinding.
Behind-the-scenes at Pixar, a female at the helm may have rocked Pixar’s boat; much has been made of the fact that Brenda Chapman, who conceived of the original story, was replaced by Mark Andrews with whom she now only co-shares a directing credit. That power-shift may be reflected in the somewhat mixed result: “Brave” had great potential – consider it the little feminist tale that could – but feels, perhaps like Chapman herself, hemmed in and restrained. On one hand, Merida exerts her agency at an archery match and shows up all the boys eager for a betrothal. “I am Merida, and I’ll be shooting for my own hand,” she declares, like an aspiring Katniss from “The Hunger Games.” On the other, the dialogue written for her reeks of adolescent platitude and her sparring with ol’ mom sounds awfully quotidian for a film purportedly aiming for fantasy. Her conflict with her mother is what drives her to an enchanted forest inhabited by a witch (Julie Walters) that offers her a life-altering spell. As the witch, Julie Walters’ voice lights up the funniest scene in “Brave.” A close second is anytime Merida’s triplet brothers are spinning about like a trio of red-headed tornados.
Punctuality may be key to really enjoying “Brave”: the short film “La Luna” that precedes “Brave” is really over-the-moon. What follows feels disappointingly closer to home.
“How to Train Your Princess” haha love it!
The Scottish vibe felt reminiscent of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, one of my favorites. Did you think there was much original in BRAVE?
NIce review. I enjoyed Brave but also felt they could have pushed the concept further. I thought the film started out strong but got a little weaker in the middle.
Thanks; definitely flatlined a bit, judging my the screaming kids around me that seemed sufficiently bored midway through! Thanks for reading.
Hey Colin, took a few days to catch up with blogs. Now I see why you left the title of the review blank; you weren’t Brave. The concept looked good but your and other review concur this is a rent or cheap Tuesfay view I’ve been skipping some animated because all the voices seem to be Mike Myers; a good Canadian voice talent but too busy of late.
Thanks for read; that was actually a techno-glitch in that I posted before titling properly. Mike Myers…a blast for the past! What are you reviewing next?
Hey Colin, I was glad I saw this in the theater, as my boy enjoyed it. If you don’t have any kids, I wouldn’t suggest running right out to the theater to check this out. As you suggested a rental or streaming would be perfectly ok for this film.
I would love to hear more about the switching of directors mid stream and what brought about that change. Then again I don’t know much about the role of the director of an animated film in the first place.
Thanks for reading; there were a few parents who took their small (frightened) kids out during the bear fights! Kind of scary for the tater-tots, I guess!
Yeah my boy was a little scared but nothing too bad. some kids were freaking out a bit.
I was never a big horror film guy but jr. constantly asks to watch scary movies and is into all the old universal horror films monsters…. he didn’t get that from me. lol
I don’t know how you find the time for films with family! Yes, you passed along your movie-loving genes. A review of the Channing Tatum stripper movie coming up prior to Tuesday’s SPIDEY!
I really enjoyed Brave. It may not be in the top tier of Pixar’s library, but it is a solid entry. It looked amazing and honestly, to strip it down to its most basic appeal…I laughed, I teared up and connected to the strong women on screen. That is a winner, in my book.
Yes, it could have pushed more or delved deeper, but at the end, it was a lovely foray into fairy tale territory with a spirited, independent princess. Bravo!
Agreed, wouldn’t kick that princess out of the Pixar bed for eating cookies. We should re-blog each other considering our similar viewpoints. Write on!
meg silverman said:
I didn’t see brave but girls did. I know they liked it, but they don’t seem to discriminating in their viewing, they liked Nomeo and Juliet last year. Elton John directed it was terrible.
Oh boy, Elton at the wheel. BRAVE is good family fun.