Up until last year’s release of Cars 2, Pixar had an unblemished history that seemed too good to be true – a consistent mix of critical acclaim and commercial viability.Cars 2, of course, became the first blemish on Pixar’s record. Brave, Pixar’s first film with a female protagonist, aims to return Pixar to its previous high bar.
Giving credit where it’s due, Brave does a lot to improve upon Pixar’s credibility post-Cars 2. Pixar stories are usually rather standard, and their relative strengths depend on the characters that populate the story. In the case of Brave, we have Merida as our central character, and she’s a spitfire. Just between Merida and her mother, Queen Elinor, the amount of female strength in Brave overshadows what’s seen in even the most progressive of princess-based films in the Disney canon.
Each Pixar film carries a standard theme. For Brave, it’s all about the relationships between mothers and daughters. If you stop to think about it, it’s a bit of a novel concept. Off the top of your head, think of how many animated films with princesses not only have a mother figure, but one who’s both strong and loving. It’s not a long list.
Also worth praising: the film resists the typical trope of marrying off the princess. Like the mother/daughter relationship, think of how often that happens with princesses in animated films? It’s rare.
As for the rest of the characters, only three stand out – Merida’s (unnamed) younger brothers. They’re adorably mischievous, and they’re also the only characters to truly help Merida and Elinor in the film. The remaining characters, all but one being men, are mindless idiots. It feels like they were inserted to provide gag humor for the boys in the audience.
Brave is by no means a perfect film. There are more things that someone could easily criticize. In my mind, though, it’s a significant step towards a return to form for Pixar. Just for the storytelling ideas alone, Brave should receive some commendation. It’s definitely worth seeing, especially for parents and their children.