PG, 1 hr. 33 min. Directed By: Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews. Release Date: Jun 22, 2012.
Before I went to see this movie, I did something I never do: I read what the critics are saying, and for some reason, they’re almost universally not-panning the movie. No one’s raving about it, and everyone seems to have taken that pill so that they can basically say that this isn’t Pixar’s best work. In my mind, this is one of their better movies. By a wide stretch.
This might be the first time in a long time that I’ve seen a female character in a children’s animated movie be so… aggressive. There are folks making some comparisons to Beauty and the Beast in terms of story line. I’d argue that the comparison is cheap and only in a few minor details: both lead characters are dreamy girls who long for freedom they can’t have, and both have a bestial “monster” of sorts. Belle didn’t stand her ground against the Beast after watching the Beast walk over half an army like it was a hillock. The two have widely different moral values as a part of their “fairy tale” value systems and they aren’t that similar.
Merida is the character Belle would have been if Disney wasn’t busy whitewashing existing fairy tale literature. She is brave, although I tend to agree with the critics, there wasn’t much about this movie that lives up to its title in terms of content. There are good lessons to be learned for the kids who take you to this, and if you read my blog regularly, you know I demand a decent moral for the kids. There are actually several that I like: don’t shortcut your way to the solution of a problem, be careful what you wish for, and don’t talk to strangers. I also like that through the running of this story, Merida learns that there are consequences for every action, or as one of my favorite authors has written a lot, “everything has a price.” She takes responsibility for her actions in the movie, and that is a GREAT thing. There are way too many kids out there that don’t seem to realize that their actions actually mean something. This, too, is a common theme when I write about kids’ movies. One day, I’m hoping that last lesson will stick.
As I generally expect from Pixar, the animation was beautiful, and also on a running theme, I liked the setting and background art MUCH better than the characters and their animation. There is some lightweight whitewashing of fairy tale literature, and it comes in the form of the will o’ wisps. It’s my understanding that those little buggers aren’t actually considered to be helpful spirits in the stories you find them in. Here, they’re plot drivers, but they probably should have been doing stuff like leading Merida into mire or something like that.
Anyways, I had a blast in this movie, even with the jackass next to me texting through the last half of the movie. I laughed; often and clearly at the intention of the film writers. The end is a little sappy, but otherwise this is one of the better movies I’ve seen this year.