This is not the post I thought I'd be writing after seeing Pixar's latest installment. I've come to expect the best from Pixar: a solid story with a great message, beautiful animation, fairly clean content, and a few laughs.
Most of these things were present in Brave. The music was lovely, the animation simply breathtaking (especially the scenery and Merida's hair!! I heard they developed a special program just for all of those lovely red locks!). The positive message of family, especially as it relates to mothers and daughters, was very touching and made me want to rush home and hug my own girls.
However, there were several issues I had with the movie that left me with mixed feelings as I plodded out of the theater. Instead of leaving with a huge grin and marveling over an amazing movie, I was left to wade through my muddled thoughts to try to figure out how I really felt about the film.
Honestly, the story itself didn't seem as tightly wound as some of Pixar's previous films. It's nothing I can put my finger on...just some parts seemed rushed and some parts didn't seem to gel. It didn't click for me as much as some of their previous works. This itself is not a huge problem, and it's possible I might not even feel the same way if I saw it a second time, now that I know what to expect.
As was mentioned in Plugged In's review, there was also a bit more crude humor in this one than there has been in the past. I think the parts that disturbed me the most were the naked bottoms in one quick but still "blech" scene (Really? Did you guys honestly think throwing in this cheap laugh was a good idea? Come on, Pixar! You're better than this!) and a quick joke involving ample cleavage. There were a few other small things, but these two scenes were the most disappointing for me. Like I mentioned, both are over in a matter of seconds, but I still wish they hadn't been included.
I also had a hard time with some of the early scenes between Merida and Queen Elinor. The two exchange some heated, hurtful words, especially in one scene that's hard to watch as a mom. Later, Merida tricks her mother in order to try to get her to change her mind about forcing Merida to do something she doesn't want to do. The princess's thoughtless action unleashes unexpected tragedy as a result.
There is also a witch character who is played more for laughs than for fright, but she still comes across as a bit creepy, and one part involving the character is a little intense. And for those of you who are not into magic and sorcery, you probably want to skip this film. Potions are made, spells cast, and a deep, mysterious sense of "fate" and "magic" pervades the entire movie.
This may seem like a small thing to some, and I understand that it was played for laughs, but I have to admit it kind of bothered me the way Queen Elinor "wore the pants" in her relationship with King Fergus. I realize there are many relationships like this out there, and I do appreciate that Fergus was not just portrayed as a buffoon. However, I'm getting tired of the constant bombardment of the feminist movement in our movies and TV shows. It's almost like men aren't allowed to be the strong leaders in the relationship anymore.
And finally, this movie had to be, without a doubt, the darkest, scariest Pixar film I've ever seen. The "demon bear Mor'du" is one freaky critter! I would have had nightmares for WEEKS if I'd watched this movie as a little girl from his parts alone!
But worse than the just plain scary parts are the scary parts packed with emotional intensity. MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!!! DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO BE SURPRISED!!! One of the things I disliked the most as a mom involved Queen Elinor's transformation. Okay, so by now, between the previews and the marketing, we all know that the Queen changes into a bear, right? But what we don't know until watching the film (unless you're reading this spoiler) is that during her time as a bear, there are instances where Elinor forgets her humanity altogether and even threatens her daughter. I get it from a story point of view...I really do. This frightening occurrence adds a desperation and intensity to the story, and makes it even more vital that Merida find a way to break the spell. It also adds a huge emotional layer to Elinor's character as she comes out of her "bear mood" and realizes with horror what she's come close to doing. But having a mother figure turn into something scary and menacing? That's huge emotionally, especially for a movie that is mainly marketed for children. It was difficult for me to watch as an adult...there's no way my daughters would be able to handle the emotional scariness of those scenes. And let's not forget the scenes later on when Merida tries to convince her dad not to kill her mom (her dad is a mighty hunter and thinks the bear has killed the queen). Once again, the emotional intensity of those scenes is pretty extreme.
END OF MAJOR SPOILER!!! END OF MAJOR SPOILER!!!
Now, lest you think I despise the movie completely, I thought I'd share some of the things I liked about Brave.
First off, there are quite a few parts that are laugh-out-loud funny. Pixar is great with comic timing, and this movie is no different. Between King Fergus, the adorable but full-of-mischief triplets, and the hilarious lords of the land, there are some great scenes that Hubby and I heartily enjoyed.
Another thing I appreciated was the way the movie didn't go the route of the stereotypical overbearing mother and the stereotypical rebellious teen. I thought they did an excellent job of making both Merida and Elinor layered characters that truly cared about one another but had lost their ability to connect and communicate. And I loved the fact that both characters had to grow and change in order to make amends. More and more, I'm learning as a mother that the best parenting involves training your children firmly, but with love. And it is vital to spend time with them, hear their side of things when it's appropriate, and try to remember how it felt to be their age. I think that this message is beautifully conveyed in Brave.
And as I said, the animation is simply stunning, and the music instantly swept me away with its haunting beauty.
So, all in all...I'm not really sure what to say. I suppose it will take me a few days to figure out all I think about Brave. I can say without a doubt that I would NOT recommend this movie for young children. And really, even sensitive older children may have a hard time with some of the thematic elements and scariness of some of the scenes. (Hubby mentioned as we left that while he enjoyed the movie, it's not one that he would be interested in seeing a lot of times or purchasing on DVD, and not one that he would feel comfortable recommending to most of his acquaintances.)
Sigh...it seems like they don't believe in making kids movies actually for kids anymore.
Have any of you, my readers, seen the movie yet? What were your thoughts?