July 20, 2012


Not "Brave," but close enough
Brave, the latest Pixar animated kids' movie, is okay, but doesn't stand up to the Northern California movie studio's long winning streak that climaxed with Toy Story 3 a couple of years ago. 

While Disney was predominantly a girl studio, Pixar has been a boy studio run by nerds. Brave is a half-hearted attempt to break into the princess market with the story of a princess of a Scottish Highland clan. But she's a peevish tomboy who likes shooting arrows more than girl stuff, identifying more with her barbarian dad than with her educated, managerial mom. The Celtic setting is interesting (see next post) but the storyline doesn't make much use of it, instead being a generic suburban tale about a self-absorbed adolescent who doesn't appreciate her mom enough.

Brave is not terribly funny and it's not a musical, so it's not as entertaining as the best cartoon movies. Also, the look of the characters appears to be modeled after those plastic Troll dolls, so they are fairly grotesque to look at. Fortunately, part way through, one of the characters gets magically turned into a realistically rendered bear with a nice fur coat, which is easier on the eyes than all the humans.


Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

Why even bother to see this?

Steve Sailer said...

Because it's by Pixar?

Anonymous said...

"Because it's by Pixar?"

Are you some sort of completist, Steve?

Anonymous said...

Nan just took the three grandaughters (8,10 & 13)to see Brave. They enjoyed it! When the 'Bear' appeared 8 could not handle it, 10 hung on to Nan & 13 sed - ho hum.

Recommendation for gransons (7 & 9): too girly?

Anonymous said...

"Why even bother to see this?"

Says Andrew the troll who likes to pretend to be a woman on teh internets.

Anonymous said...


Jerks all of them.

Anonymous said...

"...she's a peevish tomboy", what the world needs now is not another main character who's a peevish tomboy.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

It's by Pixar would have been a winning rational until very recently.

It's firmly in the Disney corporate mediocrity camp now. When they churned out Cars 2 not to make a good movie but to sell happy meal toys I knew it was over.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Steve, let's just go ahead and state the obvious: The MacFrankurt School Scots-Irish suits at Disney are moving in and purging all the politically-incorrect goyische-kopf shegetz talent that Jobs had assembled at Pixar.

Turn out the lights, the party's over.

BritRob said...

Off topic,(sorry).
In Britain, SKY TV NEWS, part owned by Rupert Murdoch. They had a piece on the George Zimmerman interview. They used the picture of Trayvon Martin when he was twelve and then one where he was slightly older (14?). No recent photo.

Anonymous said...

If you are a completist you might also enjoy the second Highlander.

Baloo said...

I liked it better than you did, Steve. It appealed to my (actual) Scotch-Irish DNA. There's a controversy about whether it has feminist themes. I think it doesn't, really. My take is here:

Anonymous said...

"The Celtic setting is interesting (see next post) but the storyline doesn't make much use of it, instead being a generic suburban tale about a self-absorbed adolescent who doesn't appreciate her mom enough."

"Brave" was perfectly adequate light entertainment, but this did bother me quite a bit. Actual Gaelic folklore, mythology, and medieval literature are rich with weirdly fascinating tales of shapeshifting, curses, and vendettas. Instead of actually adapting one or more of these, Pixar went with "'Freaky Friday' in Medieval Scotland". That's perfectly fine if you have no grand ambitions, but it seems like a wasted opportunity.

"Why even bother to see this?"

Because one has a date which was planned on very short notice, and there is nothing else playing nearby that is remotely worth seeing? That was my answer, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Brave contains an interesting subversion of the 'rebellious child' trope. Usually the parents end up capitulating and begging forgiveness from the righteous rebel, but Merida's actions basically screw everything up...and she realizes that. The movie resolves it in a way that is designed not to make anyone uncomfortable with the implications, but it is progress.

normann said...

I'll bet somebody at Pixar has seen the Czechoslovak/GDR co-production of Three Wishes for Cinderella, a film based on Božena Němcová's take on the Cinderella story. In it Cindy is not a poor thing, but in the Czech tradition, a kick-ass babe (in this case, an accomplished horsewoman and archer). The prince first thinks she is a boy, and when he discovers that she is not, he is overjoyed, because he has finally found a girl who likes and is good at "boy things".

Norwegian public TV shows this movie every year on Christmas Eve, but with an annoying Norwegian voice-over, with the Czech soundtrack barely audible.

Anonymous said...

Yes steve, I agree with all your comments. Totally lacking any wit or vision. Weird animation. Pixar, like Linsanity or the Roman Empire, peaks and then fades. I assume Apple, Inc. will be next.

Pat Boyle said...

Around 1991-2 I decided to get into 3D animation. Maybe the only unusual aspect of that decision was that I tried to do it on a PC rather than on a Mac.

I remember flying home from a trade show in Las Vegas with a Mac guy who predicted my utter and complete failure. Actually I did OK on the technical/artistic part but my timing was bad. When I started I was nearly the only one I knew of who was modeling dinosaurs. But in 1993 Jurassic Park came out and blew me out of the water.

Now it seems half of all films are 3D animation - either cartoons or special effects. Maybe I should have perservered.

I tried 2D animation last year. I bought a Wacom tablet and one of the leading 2D animation programs. I tried making political cartoons for YouTube. I indeed made a couple cartoons staring my cartoon Barack Obama but they were simply not funny. I could imitate his voice so as to to put anything I wanted in his mouth but I failed to come up with anything worth saying. That surprised me. I assumed that it was the mastery of all the technical stuff that kept the market thin, but it was not that at all. It was lack of good gags.

So it seems to be with this movie - and many others. When I was little all of the special effects on screen were pretty cheesy. Today anything is possible, everything on the screen looks real. But good scripts don't seem to be anymore frequent than they were back in the fifties.

Another aspect of these animation movies that should be mentioned is that they are now almost always released in 3D. I don't like cartoons much but I am fascinated by 3D technology. I saw Avatar in the theater but I wanted a Home Theater solution. Last week I bought the Sony 3D video helmet (about $900). Alas I seem to have a bigger head than the average Japanese - or maybe just a bigger nose. I developed a nose bleed. Not the normal kind. The bridge of my nose bleeds. The nose piece has torn the skin on my nose. I can't try 3D again until my nose heals.

In any case I'll repeat my prediction. Live actors will soon exit the screens. Robert Downey for example is too short to play Iron Man. He wears huge elevator shoes in real life but on screen about 50% of the time he's a cartoon already. Soon he'll appear to be six two because he'll be a cartoon in all his Iron Man scenes. They will then re-release Braveheart with the cartoon of Sean Connery drawn over Mel Gibson (taller and a better accent). When cartoons get only a little bit better no more live actors at all. No one will want to continue to pay the insurance you need for real movie stars. They'll just license their image.


Anonymous said...

There is a humanity to old Disney flicks which is utterly missing in Pixar and Pixar-like productions. The stories are hare brained and read like they were written in a bull session by some very average middle school students. The rendering is sterile, and the hyper-colorful, cut quick imagery overloads your brain circuits. I took a little one to see Madagascar 3 a while back, and I spent the whole time in my seat clenching and unclenching my fists. Sheer audience abuse.

Somebody should think about reviving hand painted cells and mine Andrew Lange's Coloured Fairy Books for ideas.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, Wishniks! Abominable totems from the 1950's. Imagine how many of these turned up hanging from the rear view mirror of a wrecked car with a dead teenager behind the wheel.

Geoff Matthews said...

I took the kids to see it, and it was ok. I didn't like the grrrl power aspect of it (seems to be a cliche), but the conclusion was uplifting, and the art was pretty good.

Anonymous said...

So you shaved the beard to cut down on dirty looks from protective parents at Pixar movies?

Whiskey said...

Pixar risks diluting its brand. Enough of that girly stuff and boys will avoid it like a marathon screening of Twilight.

Geoff Matthews said...

I should say that I thought Billy Connolly did a fine job in the movie.

Anonymous said...

I hated the music sequences in kids movies and cartoons when I was a boy. Maybe they did a focus group and found they were unpopular? They could also be a sop to girl audiences.

Dirk said...

I also never appreciated high quality animation. My favorite cartoon when I was a kid was the half hour cartoon City of Gold, where the plot revolved around a conquistador Spanish boy in the 1500's. Lots of fun violence, good plotting, no singing breaks, animation looked pretty cheap. Things like Fantasia world bore me to tears and long bathroom breaks.

Dirk said...

Boys are ok with girls as main movie characters as long as they fight with cool weapons. Everyone liked playing petite Chinese girl Chun Li in video game Street Fighter 2. She had a rapid fire lightening kick move and a great jump.

agnostic said...

Why don't they just re-release Labyrinth? No butt-kicking babe for the crypto-homo demographic, no cruddy unbelievable visuals, no lame music. And the bratty daughter learns a lesson about wishing her baby brother were gone so she'd get more attention.

(And unlike in our authoritarian culture, she doesn't get her face rubbed in it -- she makes up for it, and is shown sympathetically.)

Not like I'm in the target audience for this crap, but you have to worry about what young people these days are being brought up on. You have to gradually introduce them to more and more mature stuff so that they wind up normal as adolescents and adults.

With constant shielding and dumbing down, they wind up like the Millennials today who are still fascinated by Harry Potter and Pokemon even after college. Dorks!

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to find good and recently made entertainment for kids. If you let your kids watch the recent stuff it's a prescription for creating brats, brats with a dangerously foolish outlook on life.

A lot of the time they do show children acting like brats eventually "learning the error of their ways" but kids tend to ape the brattish behavior and the lesson goes over their heads, if that was ever the intent.

And the whole "girls kicking ass" business that is a recent phenomenon - it's not a good idea to wait until your daughter is walking down a dark alley to realize that her McDojo black belt won't do shit vs a man twice her weight and 4 times her strength. No second chances from that encounter.

JSM said...

Will the Joker incident preclude any more movie-going by Americans?

Anonymous said...

I saw it and liked it a great deal. I liked the focus on the relationship between the mother and the daughter and them teaming up to solve the central problem. It was refreshing that the film acknowledged there are consequences to "following one's dreams" and heading off in search of adventure. Seemed more adult.

Perhaps you didn't like it because you ARE a man. I'm not.

Anonymous said...

If you let your kids watch the recent stuff it's a prescription for creating brats, brats with a dangerously foolish outlook on life.

What do you mean by the imprecise term "brat", anyway?

Brent Lane said...

I enjoyed it as well. It's certainly not up to the standard of the best Pixar films*, since it lacks the great pacing and timing of their earlier works, let alone the originality and inventiveness, but it was a pleasant diversion. The technological advances in digital animation are shown to good effect as well - the bears were quite remarkable.

I'm a little surprised you didn't comment on what for me was the best part of the movie: the HBD angle. This story celebrated white history - granted, it was a specific ethnicity (highland Scot), but when was the last time any of you saw a newly-released family-oriented film with an obviously 100% white (non-Jewish) cast? Especially one portrayed so sympathetically?

My pleasure at seeing a group of characters sharing my ethnic heritage shown overcoming their tribal disagreements and facing a mortal threat with bravery, resourcefulness and trust overcame whatever mild objection I might otherwise had to the grrrl power plotline.

* (a minor point, I suppose, but I am beginning to feel ridiculous referring to modern works of animation such as this as "films", seeing as how they have never existed in the realm of such crude elements of celluloid and silver nitrate...)

Kylie said...

"I saw it and liked it a great deal. I liked the focus on the relationship between the mother and the daughter and them teaming up to solve the central problem. It was refreshing that the film acknowledged there are consequences to 'following one's dreams' and heading off in search of adventure. Seemed more adult.

Perhaps you didn't like it because you ARE a man. I'm not."

You'd probably like Imitation of Life (the 1959 version, not the 1934 one). The focus is definitely on mother-daughter relationships though there's not a lot of teaming up or problem solving.

Anonymous said...

the HBD angle.

They covered that fairly well in the movie, with obvious nods to Scots roots: Irish, Viking, the grumpy Dingwalls, and Fergus.

A few of the minor characters were well done, as was BIlly Connoly's Fergus.

I didn't think some of the in-movie art and set dressing was as brilliant as some prior Pixar movies. The Incredibles was a remarkable love letter to mid century modernist architecture and art. You could tell the animators loved the genre, and loved doing it. The Brave in-movie art was workmanlike but not a knockout. The technical aspects of the animation were as usual of the highest standards.

Overall I thought it could have used some more or at least better development. It was a pretty famously troubled production, with a change in directors and new screenwriters brought in. It would be interesting to see what the original script looked like.

Anonymous said...

"What do you mean by the imprecise term "brat", anyway?"

Selfish, self-centered children who argue with their parents instead of doing as they are told, and serve as a source of friction instead of cohesion in the household. With girls, there is a focus on them being "sexy" and consuming lots of products such as cosmetics and other things that act to impoverish them for no real gain. With boys there is a focus on them being "cool", snarky, alternative etc. Again, things that will help them in life such as work ethic, thrift and the like are not emphasized.

Anonymous said...

When cartoons get only a little bit better no more live actors at all.

Albertosaurus - you do realize that that will mean computer-generated leather, computer-generated chains, computer-generated ball-gags, computer-generated whips, computer-generated paddles, etc etc etc?

And, of course, computer-generated actresses? [Ugh!!!]

Might as well look at Japanese octopus anime. [Double-ugh!!!]

Drawbacks said...

"Why don't they just re-release Labyrinth?" Because they'd face class action suits and quite likely criminal charges for showing David Bowie's jodhpurs in a kids' movie.

Anonymous said...

is the book worth buying or is Kevin Macdonald already done the subject more honestly than Gelenter?

He is interesting to me. I heard him on German TV being skeptical of the internet which I liked (not for leftist reasons of fearing extremism but for fear of societal effects).

Positive sight: I don't know if the book was featured on NPR but when I called the Evanston B and N to see if they had it the clerk said several people had called about it that day (which made thing maybe some Northwestern students or professors read isteve like me which i like to think is true).

was it on NPR? the clerk asked me if it was b/c of all the calls they got I told em' i heard about it on a blog I read. Oddly the closest store that had it was all the way up in Millwauke maybe they're hiding it for touching the jewish question.

-Scottish Jew

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

Scottish, er, ah, Scots-Irishman:

A) You posted this to the wrong thread.

B) You can check B&N store inventory on the internet [after which you can then call the store to have the clerk pull the book off the shelves and hold it for you behind the front counter].