Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:

Title: Brave

Praise For This Seems A Bit...Reserved For A Pixar Film: That's because it's the first movie released since that studio's purchase by the House of Mouse that feels like "a Disney movie."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Scottish princess chafes at gender roles, quarrels with mother, fights bears.

Tagline: "Change your fate."

Better Tagline: "It took 75 years, but they finally armed a [white] Disney princess."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is not your typical princess, preferring horseback archery to sewing and etiquette and other such boring ladylike pursuits. Her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) laughs off his willful daughter's antics, the Queen (Emma Thompson), on the other hand, insists on arranging a marriage to the son of one of three rival clans, but Merida sabotages the competition, leading to an argument and Merida storming off. She follows a trail of will-o'-the-wisps to a witch's cottage, where she requests a spell to change her fate. The witch obliges with a pastry Merida is to give her mother. And then things get weird.

"Critical" Analysis: The problem you knew you were always going to run into with Pixar was its eventual coming down to earth. After the consistent excellence of Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Finding Nemo, a letdown was inevitable, and it coincided with the acquisition of the studio by Disney in 2006 and the release of the abysmal Cars. This, as it turns out, is to Brave's benefit, otherwise people would be talking about this movie as the first of Pixar's efforts to not live up to its predecessors.

I'd actually have made that argument about Toy Story 3, but apparently I'd be in sparse company.

Don't get me wrong; Brave isn't *bad* - certainly not in the Cars (or Cars 2) sense - it's just sort of...there. This concept of the headstrong girl longing to break free of the life that's been prepared for her has been a Disney trope since The Little Mermaid, which is why Merida's rebellion feels like such well-trod territory. The primary difference is the lack of a romantic interest, which sets her apart from the rest of the princess cabal.

As we've come to expect, it's certainly a beautiful film to look at. Pixar rewrote their entire animation system to finally depict realistic human features (most of the studio's earlier efforts focused on toys, cars, and robots), and the film is a visual wonder, pointless 3D or not. And while the tactic is old hat for Disney, it bears mentioning that this is the first Pixar effort to feature a female lead. As well as its first fairy tale.

But unlike so many fairy tales before it, in which the mother is either absent or replaced by an evil substitute, Brave focuses almost exclusively on the relationship between mom and daughter. It's a dynamic that suffers a rather obnoxious money wrench - the witch's tart turns Merida's mother into a bear - but give them credit for trying, people.

When Pixar is at the top of its game, its movies somehow transcend normal children's fare, sidestepping cliche and conveying genuine heart. Think The Incredibles, or Up, or the first Toy Story. I guess what I'm saying is, Brave isn't transcendent. It's a perfectly serviceable film, and very pretty, but has to be viewed as something of a creative step down when compared to [most of] the studio's previous offerings.

See It/Rent It/Skip It: Oh, see it. It's nice enough on the big screen, and Billy Connolly is an underused treasure. Plus, you get the engaging "La Luna" short beforehand.

Brave is in theaters today. Don't forget to reassure your kids that their parents are unlikely to morph into woodland creatures

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar