In some ways, Pixar’s latest, “Brave,” is an even bigger disappointment than “Cars 2″ was, even though it’s a much better film.
Pixar was on such a roll there for a while, with WALL-E, then UP, then Toy Story 3. It was like watching Ken Griffey Jr. hit home runs in 8 consecutive games. You couldn’t believe he was really that good, and you wondered how long he could do it. Then Pixar hitched their wagon to Larry the Cable Guy’s star with “Cars 2,” and that was like watching the Kid strike out four times in a row. Terrible, but you knew the streak had to end somewhere. But then imagine in the next game Griffey Jr. hits a bloop single to left center. OK, a hit’s good and all but.. sigh. In some ways, the bloop single is more depressing than the strikeouts. That was more than just one bad game; the streak’s really over, and the superhero is putting his street clothes back on.
“Brave” is a bloop single from Pixar. It is a relentlessly conventional fairy tale about a princess. She wants to be her own person, which brings her into tension with her mother, who wants her to act like a princess. This leads to a big fight between the two of them, which leads to the princess storming off with the waterworks flowing. She finds a witch promises to change her fate and her mother, but of course is not being totally honest. The witch’s spell turns the queen into a bear, and the princess has to sneak her out of the castle before her beastly father butchers his wife.
And while this story is definitely one we’ve heard before, Pixar’s does a fine job telling it up to this point, but then it takes a turn for the lazy and nonsensical. The princess discovers that in order to undo the spell, she must repair a ripped tapestry back in the castle. So for no reason at all, she undertakes the incredibly dangerous and practically impossible task of sneaking a bear into the castle. I see no shred of a reason why she can’t simply march into her own castle, repair the tapestry, and then take a decent set of clothes to her mother, who would be waiting for her in the forest all the while. No reason except that it wouldn’t set up the exciting chase that follows, which sets up the climax and allows for the resolution (princess learns life lesson, cries some more tears, spell is undone, happily ever after) to take place.
It’s a visually pleasing movie, what with the princess’s flowing curly red hair and the scottish hillside, etc. And as far as stories we’ve heard before, there are more annoying ones. But it’s a million miles away from the creative and original storytelling of Pixar’s greatest hits. In an impressive canon that also includes classics like “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles,” “Brave” is no more than a mildly interesting footnote.