As all Pixar movies, Brave is a beautiful piece of work. The landscapes are gorgeous. The animation excellent. The characters interesting. Despite all of that, I was left slightly unsatisfied at the end of the movie.
It's not that it wasn't a good movie; it was. It was very good. But, I guess, I was just expecting something a little bit more from Pixar, because, in the end, it turns out to be a pretty typical kid-oriented fantasy movie. It's the kind of thing where the kid makes a bad decision but gets rewarded for it anyway. Basically, parents are always wrong and if they would just open their eyes and take a look at you and how deserving you are to have your way then they would just see that that's true and let you have your way. Of course, it's not that simple in these kinds of movies, and the kid has to make a big mistake for the parent to actually take a look at the kid and, instead of the kid having to deal with any consequences of his/her actions, s/he's able to put everything right which enables the parent to say, "Oh, you were right all along. Here, have everything you always wanted."
And this is the unfair bit, I suppose, because, if this movie had been from anyone but Pixar, I would have been fine with it. Not that I would have thought it was a better movie, but I wouldn't have been left with a feeling of disappointment. As it is, though, Pixar has been pretty good about taking that next step in dealing with personal responsibility. They've had characters that have worked through difficult issues, looked at their own behavior, and come out stronger and more mature individuals on the other side (with the exception of Wall-E, which I thought was cute but a bit heavy handed with its message and lacking in the personal growth department (even Cars 2 had a strong dose of personal growth)). The character of Merida does not come out a stronger and more mature person on the other side. She may appreciate her mother a bit more, but, in essence, she's the same at the end as she was at the beginning.
To make matters worse, the whole movie revolves around the question, "Are you brave enough?" Are you brave enough to change your own fate? It's a good question, and it sounds like a Pixar question. So I went into it expecting the heroine to do just that, to be brave and change her fate. But that's not what happens. At no point does she take the brave stance to change her fate. Instead, she runs away and makes a bad choice. It felt very The Little Mermaid to me.
I find it more than a little ironic that Pixar, a movie company known for their "bravery" in movie making, took the less than courageous route in a movie about being brave and taking your fate in your own hands.
Which makes me wonder about the influence Disney is having over them. Pixar kept their own studio headquarters up here near San Francisco when Disney bought them. The idea behind that was so that they could keep their autonomy. Do their own thing. Continue to make the movies they'd been know for. But I'm not sure that's happening. Last summer's Cars 2, which I liked, is considered Pixar's first failure for its overt merchandising. A movie short on story for the sake of being flashy and selling a lot of stuff. That's so very... Disney. And, honestly, even with the stronger than typical female lead, Brave felt much like a typical Disney "Princess" movie. Even Toy Story 3 was pushed through by Disney. Actually, because Disney owned the rights to any Toy Story sequels, they were going to make the movie without Pixar's involvement at all, but after their Pixar acquisition, Pixar took control of it and started completely over on the project (and thank goodness for that!).
Maybe it's just the lack of John Lasseter. With the acquisition by Disney and his expanded role as chief creative officer for both Disney and Pixar (along with a handful of other duties (which included the creation of the new Cars theme park at Disneyland)), he's had to be much less involved in the individual projects at Pixar, and it was always Lasseter that was the real heart of Pixar. It was his vision that created Pixar, took it from a failing animation department that George Lucas sold to Steve Jobs and Jobs was considering selling off to Microsoft (or anyone that would take it, really) and turned it into the most profitable movie studio ever (they currently have the highest average box office take across all of their movies of any movie studio). Is it that Lasseter's vision for Pixar has been removed or diluted, or is it that he's finally bought into Disney's way of doing things? I'm hoping with his more direct involvement with next summer's Monsters University that we'll see a return to what is more expected from a Pixar movie.
All of that said, my kids loved Brave, and that's really what matters. As I said, it is a good movie. If it had come out under the Disney banner rather than Pixar, I wouldn't have thought a thing about it. In fact, I would have applauded them for providing a female lead that did not need a man to "complete" her, but from Pixar... well, it just fell short of expectations.