I think it’s safe to say – given the current cultural zeitgeist – that the archery industry (is archery an industry? A hobby, perhaps? I digress), is currently experiencing an unprecedented spike in sales and interest in their ancient art. Well, at least the largest uptick since Kevin Costner gave audiences the “Arrow POV” cam in 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, anyway.
This renewed enthusiasm for strapping on a quiver and marching off into the woods began with Katniss Everdeen in the $400+ million grossing Hunger Games adaptation, was quickly followed up with the archery-themed superhero Hawkeye in the $600+ million mega-blockbuster Avengers, and now little tykes around the globe will be clamoring for a bow of their own thanks to the flame-mopped Princess Merida in Brave, Pixar’s latest CG-animated crowd pleaser.
And pleasing is probably the best way I can describe Brave. It’s a solid effort from Pixar, full of bright, larger than life characters in spectacular settings, with the prerequisite amount of slapstick humor, fun action sequences, and, naturally, a classic Disney morality lesson. No Country For Old Men‘s Kelly Macdonald delivers the feisty, rebellious Princess Merida that the trailers promise, but what Disney’s marketing department doesn’t reveal is that the central conflict of the film arises not from the actions of a primary antagonist (though there is a scary, demonic bear that hangs out on the fringes of the narrative), but from internal strife between Merida and her Mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). There is also a “twist” to the story that is subtly foreshadowed early on, which I won’t ruin here. Suffice it to say that this transformative twist is effective in a metaphorical sense, and eventually serves as the device by which the frayed bonds of mother and daughter are repaired.
Pixar delivers once again from a purely visual standpoint, proving that they are unmatched when it comes to character animation, textures, physics, hair, clothing, and scenery. Rolling Scottish highlands with sun-dappled waterfalls and mystical stone monoliths, are all rendered with elegance and sumptuous beauty. I can’t help but think I would’ve been even more impressed with Brave‘s visual aesthetic if the theater I saw the film in bothered to replace the projector bulbs from a prior 3D screening. (3D projector bulbs result in a very dim screen when projecting a 2D version.) Lovely, soaring Celtic strings and haunting Scottish bagpipes accompany the eye candy, including a track by Mumford and Sons that’s a real standout.
For over a decade, Pixar was a golden child; an adorable, endearing baby that captivated us with every giggle, squeak, fart, and bat of its eyelashes. Now that the kid is getting older, the act isn’t very cute anymore. The blemishes are starting to show, as are the growing pains and gawky, pre-teen awkwardness . We no longer instantly fawn over the babble that comes out if its mouth, yet we still expect to feel the same way we did when it was all so new. Brave is solid, entertaining, and absolutely gorgeous to look at; its storyline is just a wee bit too slight to rank among Pixar’s upper echelon, however.