Pixar. We need to talk. More specifically, we need to talk about Brave (Mark Andrews/Brenda Chapman, 2012). You guys are supposed to be family-film mavericks: the studio that pushes the envelope, that does what no other studio has even thought to do. Your male protagonists include robots, sewer rats and action figures. And yet when, after twenty years, it finally occurs to you that maybe little girls watch your movies too, what do you give them? A princess.
Walt Disney called, he wants his crutch back.
|I don't care how fluffy her hair is.|
Brave's critical reception has been largely ridiculous. Roger Ebert referred to Merida as "a sort of honorary boy" for enjoying archery more than dating, while Adam Markovitz opines that the same qualities mean she's a closeted lesbian. This is amazing to me. Merida is, what... twelve years old? The fact that she's more interested in horseback riding than strapping Scottish lads says nothing about her gender or her sexual orientation. I can't believe I have to type this. "A honorary boy"? Jesus, Ebert, don't carbon-date yourself.
This sort of misguided gossip underscores what makes Brave so disappointing. In the months leading up to its release, the film was anticipated by Pixar devotees as the beginning of a new era of animated sophistication and of stories for new audiences. It may have succeeded on the first count: I don't know a lot about animation, but Brave's braes and banks were sufficiently bonny, and its characters looked human without venturing too deep into the uncanny valley. As for Brave's narrative, though... Pixar is capable of so much more than this. It's like they just couldn't be bothered.
I give Brave a 3/5. If you want the tweenybopper market, Pixar, you'll have to try again, and here's a hint: just because a story is "for girls" doesn't mean that marriage to Prince Charming has to be a plot point (and make no mistake, Prince Charming is as much a factor in Brave as any other "princess movie", simply by dint of his absence). More importantly, the fact that a story is "for girls" doesn't mean it has to star a fucking princess.
|The magnificent tartan of Clan MacGuffin.|