Pixar’s latest film, Brave, is a beautifully-constructed, entertaining journey with well-developed characters set in an interesting world. That much we’ve come to expect from the company behind Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up. What we’ve also come to expect are complicated adult themes and situations portrayed in a kid-friendly computer-generated environment. There Brave doesn’t feel like a Pixar movie. The film is filled with ideas and stories that are decidedly more childish than we’ve come to expect. In the end Brave does exactly what it set out to do, but the journey to get there isn’t particularly innovative or compelling. Brave has its moments, but it’s not the movie you think it’s going to be.

Brave is about a young Princess named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) who lives in ancient Scotland with three brothers, her father King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). The Queen and the Princess rarely see eye to eye, especially on the subject of her imminent marriage. When Merida goes against her mother’s wishes, she runs away, hell-bent on doing something to change her seemingly unavoidable fate.

So far so good. But it’s at this point that Brave changes. We won’t spoil it here because the reveal has so purposefully been left out of all the marketing (though I’m sure it’s been spoiled elsewhere), but the film undergoes such a surprising, drastic shift, it’s almost like it reboots itself.

This, of course, has also happened in other Pixar films. Wall-E leaving Earth was a drastic surprising change. Carl Fredricksen losing his wife was a drastic surprising change and even in Cars 2, Mater being the star was a drastic surprising change. The difference between Brave and those stories, however, are that those plot points evolved the story beyond expectations. Brave does the opposite. Featuring Pixar’s first female lead and visuals that look more realistic than every Pixar film before it, the world of Brave demands something magical but grounded. Think Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings with a Pixar twist. Brave, though, is not that. The film loses a lot of its weight and heart when it takes this unexpectedly comical and childish turn.

After about 10 minutes settling into what feels like Brave 2.0, the trajectory of the story becomes obvious. The metaphor that turn sets up works to drive the film’s themes of forgiveness, acceptance and selflessness. Still, the fact that it’s done in such a goofy way feels like a letdown.

Even so, I liked Brave a lot. Its tragic flaw can be forgiven, as the film offers a ride filled with gorgeous music, goosebump-inducing scenes and funny moments. The film satisfies but, by going the easy route to make its point, loses the gravitas that was created at the beginning. Brave is most certainly a worthy Disney movie; it just struggles to be as good a Pixar movie.

/Film rating: 7 out of 10

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About the Author

Germain graduated NYU's Tisch School of the Arts Cinema Studies program in 2002 and won back to back First Place awards for film criticism from the New York State Associated Press in 2006 and 2007.

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