Entertainment Movies
Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Brave' review: Or 'How to Train Your Mother'

** (out of four)

Like the spawn of “Felicity”-era Keri Russell and Carrot Top, Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) sports a tremendous crop of red-orange curls about which she feels no vanity. This Scottish girl concerns herself only with proving her archery skills and, just like Felicity Porter and countless other big- and small-screen heroines, finding her own destiny in spite of the plan her parents set out for her.

Merida’s mom, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), insists that Merida follow tradition and allow three suitors to compete for her hand in marriage. (Her dad, voiced by Billy Connolly, spends less time advising his daughter than telling and re-telling the tale of when a bear tore off his leg.) Merida’s hasty attempt to change her mom’s priorities lands on a long list of “Be careful what you wish for” fables. It also feels like the film’s four writers realize that this uncommonly earthbound, human-driven Pixar story needs magic and wonder, pronto, or it risks becoming yet another allegory of a kid who doesn’t appreciate her parents’ devotion and parents who just don’t understand.

That’s exactly what happens, though. Without the laughs and freewheeling imagination of Pixar’s best (including “Ratatouille” and “Toy Story 3”) or even second-tier efforts (“Up”), the ordinary fable “Brave” gives the studio’s first female main character no new lessons or unexpected territory to explore. She splits an arrow with another arrow “Robin Hood”-style and experiences all of the usual torment and regret that comes with being a teenager. The film’s setting and accents recall Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon,” but fail to offer the same breathtaking visuals of that film’s aerial beauty. The wit comes rarely in “Brave,” which does include a clever use of a cooked chicken’s shadow to imitate an angry bear but also incorporates pathetic gags involving bare butts and getting hit in the face.

“Brave” represents a minor recovery from the wildly misguided “Cars 2,” but Pixar’s latest adventure still suggests a major storytelling downshift that needs fixing now. Two’s a problem; three’s a trend.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    Marrow's 'The Gold Standard' raises the Chicago rock bar

    The four musicians in Marrow know quite a bit about bringing diverse influences to the table. After all, three of them, singer-guitarist Liam Kazar, singer-keyboardist Macie Stewart and bassist Lane Beckstrom were in Kids These Days, a now-defunct septet that combined jazz, funk, rap and rock in...

  • The Kids These Days family tree

    The Kids These Days family tree

    From its 2009 beginnings to its 2013 demise, Chicago's Kids These Days seemed like one of the most promising acts the city had seen in years. While the band split up at the height of its hype, its members have since gone on to do bigger and better things—seriously impressive considering the hip-hop/rock/jazz...

  • Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    Solid 'Gold': How ex-Kids These Days members came back stronger as Marrow

    After the dissolution of Kids These Days, the much-buzzed about Chicago fusion-jazz-rock-rap septet that split in spring 2013 just a few months after releasing its only album, “Traphouse Rock,” some of its members spent what seems like all of 20 minutes bandless. "We were driving back from the...

  • Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Mr Twin Sister's 'In the House of Yes' is one of last year's hidden treasures

    Welcome to RedEye's "Song of the Day," an ongoing feature where music reporter Josh Terry or another RedEye staff member highlights something they're listening to. Some days the track will be new, and some days it will be old. No matter what, each offering is something you should check out. Check...

  • GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    GrubHub's weekend customer-support issues made people hangry

    Technical difficulties at GrubHub and Seamless over the weekend drove hordes of hangry would-be customers to air their grievances on social media. The food ordering and delivery sites, which merged in 2013 and use GrubHub’s back-end technology, errantly accepted payments on Saturday evening without...

  • One dead in Heart of Chicago after being shot by police

    One dead in Heart of Chicago after being shot by police

    A 29-year-old man died after being shot by police on the Lower West Side early Saturday, police said.

Comments
Loading
75°