BRAVE

Poffy The Cucumber

That hair! That hair! That hair!… What story?

So this is what Rebekah Brooks did before she was personal assistant to media magnate and zombie apocalypser Rupert Murdoch.

In the Pixar production BRAVE, Rebekah’s avatar Princess Merida is graced with ravenous lava locks so visually titillating it distracts viewers into lauding the movie as a modern classic. You lost me at soft porn cartoon.

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Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly McDonald) is a teen tomboy who would much rather ride her big-assed steed through the Scottish highlands honing her formidable archery skills, than settle into a life of propriety as a servile married wench. But her parents, the King (voiced by Billy Connolly) and Queen (Emma Thompson) have promised Merida’s hand in marriage to whichever Scottish clan proves itself most worthy. It’s not personal – it’s business; to engender commerce and extend the kingdom. But Merida fights against tradition (and economy), opting to run away after winning an archery competition which has no bearing on anything.

So doth the movie make its first misstep: Merida’s archery skills have already been displayed in her wild ride through the forest, so winning the comp did not show us anything new, did not prove anything, and did not allow her to circumvent her marriage – she runs away anyway – and her skills are never used in any payoffs. Second misstep: BRAVE adopts a modern sensibility by allowing teen female Merida’s opinion to be heard in matters of the kingdom, rather than going medieval on our asses and having this mouthy firebrand bound and raped for her insolence. And that’s just on her wedding night.

Maybe I missed the boat on why BRAVE is supposedly a good movie. Now I’m the first to laud Pixar for emotional, artistic masterpieces (TOY STORY, WALL-E, UP), but though BRAVE contains some stunning animation – not least, Merida’s gorgeous, unkempt, loin-stirring hair – its story, themes and messages are confused and muddled.

And I’ll tell you the exact moment when BRAVE makes its gravest misstep and loses its way completely: when Merida’s mother, the Queen, turns into a bear. Desiring “freedom” from her mother’s rules, Merida’s wish is granted by a witch. By turning the Queen into a bear. Uh… so there was no other possible way to stop the Queen’s intrusion into Merida’s life? Not by making her mute, or entrapping her in a tower, or just making her say things via magic that would work to Merida’s advantage — no, the best way to give Merida her freedom was to turn her mother into a bear. Royt…

The movie’s focus skews from Merida trying to retain her independence without the crutch of marriage, to a quest for the witch who cast the spell on her mother, to lift the spell and change her back to human form. The junkets tell us Merida’s refusal to marry threatens the kingdom. (It doesn’t.) And that she must find a way to save the kingdom (which isn’t threatened). But it’s really about her redemption with her mother (which is as compelling as watching two women talk shopping).

The Queen is a “wipe your feet / sit up straight” type of nag; the only serious argument they have is over Merida’s arranged marriage. And that’s not really an issue, just the Way Of The Kingdom since time immemorial. The King also wants Merida to marry, but he’s not portrayed as butting heads with her over it, rather an avuncular, scrapping, fun-loving man-beast with little brain (note the depiction of his small head).

And no one seems to notice how the film runs off-track so completely. Because the filmmakers have endowed Merida with that sexually explicit distraction flouncing across the screen conjuring wild heathen fantasies. That hair! Some might notice her voluptuous child-bearing hips, some might lust on that sensually-luscious accent, some might cream over her archery skills… But that hair refuses to be ignored. Let’s not kid ourselves, gentlemen: that hair is hotness on the hoof. It’s primal. It’s an evolutionary signal of vivacious health (therefore this specimen will bear offspring more likely to survive and pass on your genes). That hair signifies an obeisance to Life’s Grand Purpose – continuance. To put it more bluntly: lava locks levels cocks.

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The movie’s opening finds Merida as a damnably cute little girl – with that same unkempt hair. I’d like to see a whole movie based around this little girl. As a teen, Merida deals with three little brothers who are meant to uphold the cuteness (the “Cousin Olivers” of the film), but they don’t come close to the ungodly cuteness of her baby self. In the opening sequence, writer-directors Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell try to insert all those plot elements that should payoff later – flame-wraiths, a rogue grizzly, Merida’s first bow and arrow, but lose their way in slapstick as the bear-Queen tries to avoid revealing herself while the King plays host to a bunch of comedy reliefs.

Does the kingdom fall? Does the Queen turn human again? Does Merida marry?

Does the carpet match the drapes?

END

Brave_titleBRAVE (Jun 2012) PG
Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell.
Writers: Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi, Michael Arndt.
Starring: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson.
RATINGS-06
imdb
Word Count: 840      No. 884
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