Friday, 28 December 2012

Brave, dir. Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, scr. Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi, st. Kelly Macdonald, Julie Walters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane

Pixar Animation Studios have come a long way since their renderings of human characters like Andy and Sid in 1995's Toy Story. Now, laden with immense critical acclaim, the legacy of Steve Jobs' sage leadership, and the creative experience of almost twenty years of storytelling, it seems nothing is beyond its artists' stylus'. It's regretful then that some of their most enthralling artwork is contained within such a pedestrian format. Yes, it's a fairytale in the richness of those traditions, but one gets the nagging feeling that where Pixar movies have excelled has been in the escape from the constraints of such formulaic narration, whether it's portrayed a beat-up maintenance droid contemplating life and loneliness on an abandoned planet, or a clown-fish and his Dad simultaneous coming of age. Brave's first third however, beguiles and enchants as the young princess Merida (Macdonald), distraught at the idea of duty and tradition, finds solace in archery and tomboy-pursuits, whilst her Mother, Elinor (Thompson), stoically attempts to prep her only daughter for adulthood. Such parental/offspring clashes are well-worn indeed, but the animation, voice-work and smart observational nuances more than sell the frustration of conflict. Soon after, Merida encounters a witch deep within the forest, and before things get too embroiled in a rich Mother/Daughter psychological tapestry, we're presented with a altogether more fantastical second half that, in truth (and although it may captivate younger viewers), flattens the mood. A rather mixed bag then, Brave never lets fly as true as one of Merida's arrows, but at least it can't touch Cars 2 for sheer bloodlessness.