10 December 2013

Brave, The Movie

Tonight the girls and I watched Brave, the Disney animation. The blurb proudly claims 'from the makers of Toy Story' but gosh that's dangerous territory to claim. And of course the film fails to live up. While convincing animation has become the norm, Toy Story set the bar impossibly high in terms of tight, clever plotting and characterisation.
The basic premise of Brave is a meeting of Scottish clans, presumably sometime in the 1800s, to choose a husband for the King and Queen's daughter, Princess Merida. The daughter is against the idea and during the feasting and merriment she escapes to enlist the help of a witch to try and change her mother's mind. The spell goes wrong and the Queen turns into a bear.
Brave's highly sophisticated computer graphics produce facsimiles of living beings but with cartoonish features. The youthful protagonist appears almost doll-like, no doubt to appeal to a very young audience, while the Scottish braves are hilarious caricatures, complete with eyebrows like hedges, bright orange hair, and beards you could lose a badger in. There is much swishing of tartan and droning of bagpipes. The voice-overs feature a wide range of Scottish accents, foremost among which, and instantly recognisable, is Billy Connolly as King Fergus.
The computer generation of rugged Scottish scenery, castles, lochs and forests is undeniably dazzling but... I kept thinking of that implied comparison with Toy Story. That's unfortunate because Toy Story is in another league. It couldn't fail to melt the hardest of hearts with its loveable cast of favourite toys, intricate plots and sub plots, and smart references to popular culture. You can suspend disbelief, the anthropomorphism is so credible and often humanly poignant.
Sadly Brave flatters to deceive; it's a film of style rather than substance. The girls still loved Brave, empathised with Merida and hid behind their fingers at the intense bear scenes. I guess that's what matters.

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