July 15, 2012

Brave

Over the last twenty years, Pixar has upended Disney's traditional dominance of animated features with its modern and progressive filmmaking. Ironically, when a female protagonist finally gets her own Pixar film, it's the most old-fashioned and "Disneyfied" film in Pixar's history. And I, The Stub Hubby, feel like a knuckle-dragging "guy" for not connecting with the mother-daughter dynamic at the heart of the film.
Pixar has mastered the art of convincing CGI hair, but this is showing off.
The Disney feature Mulan covered this same ground 14 years ago, and better too- if memory serves. I may need to rewatch it! This column on Time.com covers the feminist failures better than I can. What I will say is that the reason that more movies don't have female protagonists, is that Hollywood believes that men won't go see a movie about women. That's why the red-headed teenager pictured above is barely in the TV spots- you'd think the movie was wall-to-wall adolescent hijinks based on the commercials that aired during the NBA Finals. People like to think that Pixar is some untainted artist's enclave on a mountaintop, but their movies need to make money too.
Brave feels like an aggressively traditional movie, and not just because it's set in ancient Scotland. It's a true fairy tale, the first fairy tale movie Pixar has attempted, and I was surprised and disappointed when the teenage princess with the modern ideas about free will and independence believes in faeries, fate, witches, and spells. I couldn't reconcile a young woman who wants to break convention and choose her own path in the world, with a land where faeries lead you to a witch with a magic spell.
Just as the queen was about to swallow the magic potion, I was eager to walk out. Dusting off the "magic potion" framework removed all drama for me. The remainder of the film was a "let's get it over with" chore, since I knew that the princess and queen would, in the nick of time, successfully fufill the rules of the magic and break the spell. If your response to this is "this is a movie for children", then that means I have to hold this film to a lower standard than all the previous Pixar films...except Cars and Cars 2, which also only succeeded as children's entertainment.
I have to give Brave a C-plus. Your totally male film reviewer, The Stub Hubby, apologizes, and is off to watch Field Of Dreams.
(Landmark Embassy Theater Waltham)

ALSO ON STUB HUBBY: I Attempt To Rank All The Pixar Movies