Brave: written by Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, and Irene Mecchi; directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, and Steve Purcell; starring the voices of Kelly Macdonald (Merida), Billy Connolly (Fergus), and Emma Thompson (Elinor) (2012): I wanted to like Pixar’s first foray into the long uncharted realms of a female protagonist. And the first 40 minutes or so of Brave are decent enough, though there are points where I became convinced that they created a female protagonist (Scottish teenager Merida) just to show off their increasing proficiency at CGI hair.
Merida has a lot of hair. And it looks pretty realistic. If you want to see what top-shelf CGI could do with hair just 15 years ago, take a look at Malebolgia in the live-action Spawn movie. See how terrible it looks? So we’ve mastered computer-generated hair. It’s not a Mars colony or an end to world hunger, but it’s something.
But Holy Moley — did Pixar’s first female protagonist have to get saddled with Mother issues that ultimately swallow the entire plot? And was the last 40 minutes of the movie even plotted out? Because everything in the second half of the movie revolves around two female characters accomplishing…a repair job on a tapestry. Specifically, repairing about a two-foot-long tear in a tapestry.
So a movie in which three of the four major speaking roles are for women has as its McGuffin…the ability to sew. Well, and forgive. It’s as if Aladdin came down to whether or not a tinsmith could fix the Genie’s lamp. And the amount of Idiot Plot running-around in those last 40 minutes is something to behold. It makes the chase sequence at the end of Star Trek: Into Darkness look like a model of narrative economy and plain good sense.
So hopefully Pixar will give a female protagonist a movie as good as the Toy Story films or Up or Wall*E. This one, muddled and burdened with voiceover homilies that don’t seem to have any relation to what the film showed us, isn’t it. Not recommended unless you’re a scholar of CGI hair.