Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Brave: What did you think?
Well, critical opinion on Brave does seem to be divided - yes, it's tracking pretty well on Rotten Tomatoes, but look at the actual reviews. Nearly all of them damn with faint praise, or qualify every compliment with a criticism. (The Onion's AV Club gave it a lengthy, thoughtful review, but I am totally baffled as to how it still rated a B from them after everything they said about it.) I thought the film was hollow at the very heart of things, and Mr. Marks, who reviewed it for the Reader, wasn't much kinder.
What happened? Lots of things. Here's one: I heard an interesting spot on NPR yesterday about the film's relation to Princess culture. Brave producer Katherine Sarafian told the interviewer, "We've kind of had to fight the princess thing — like, 'Oh, well, she's a princess, it's a princess movie' — because we've seen the princess thing done so many times...We tried making her the blacksmith's daughter and the milkmaid in various things," she said. "There [are] no stakes in the story for us that way. We wanted to show real stakes in the story where, you know, the peace of the kingdom and the traditions are all at stake."
This is classic blockbuster technique - you have to ratchet the scale of the problem to the point where the problems aren't just personal - they're world-threatening. In a world gone mad, one man has the power to save us... But it hasn't been Pixar's technique, and that has been their glory. Ratatouille was about one artist's quest to practice his art against all expectations. Finding Nemo was about a father's search - geographical and otherwise - for his son. Even The Incredibles, which had a big-time, large-scale villain, was much more about a family finding its way in the world. Pixar told human stories, never mind the stakes, and they were hugely successful.
(While we're at it: Belle from Beauty and the Beast wasn't a princess. She was the daughter of a crackpot inventor, one who didn't want to enter into the life that was expected of her - kind of like Merida. Yet somehow, Disney managed to produce some stakes for her. Funny, that.)
But enough. I'm wondering what all of you thought. I was kind of thrilled to see some debate about Prometheus, even if it did show up in an odd spot for such a discussion. Did you love Brave? Hate it? Why not head on over to Mr. Marks' review and tell us why?