I, generally, really like Pixar.  But the last two films of theirs I’ve seen lead me to believe that they’re trying to branch out into the Horror genre.  It’s not that I was on the edge of my seat in Toy Story 3, it’s that the toys obeying prison yard rules before falling into the pit of fire was traumatic imagery.

The same is true of Brave.  I saw this in a second run theatre over the weekend with a 5 year old.  He spent most of the film with his head buried in his seat.  I wasn’t far off.

Brave is not so much a story about a princess who wants to avoid an arranged marriage, as it is a Celtic version of Brother Bear.  The princess finds a witch (by way of a glowing trail of Will O’ the Wisps) and asks her for a potion that will change her mother (the queen) and therefore change the princess’ fate.  When Princess tricks her mother into eating the magic cake, I thought she’d been poisoned.  Instead, the magic of the one bite of cake turns mom into a bear (leaving the rest of the cake for her dessert stealing male triplets).  The king, by the way, lost his leg a decade earlier to a bear attack.  We’re not concerned he’s going to find out about mom and run her off.  He legitimately tries to kill her.  In the moments when the Queen and Princess are finally trying to break the spell, having mended the disagreement between mom and daughter; dad is swinging away trying to remove momma bear’s head.

This is not a children friendly movie.

Horrifying moments aside, Pixar has made a lot of technical advances in the 17 years since Toy Story shocked everyone.  The hair rendering for the princess’ unkempt mop is fantastic, as are the environment, fluids, and particles.  Basically, this film is visually very good.  The cinematic direction and soundtrack are excellent.

The characters are, mostly, caricatures of Scots.  The princess is pretty stereotypical of the tomboy girl who can fight.  It’s believable in this story because she’s actually encouraged to do so by her father, in stark contrast to her mother’s etiquette lessons.

The story is supposed to be one of mother and daughter learning to understand and appreciate each other.  It kind of fails here.  Through her transformative transformation, the queen does learn to appreciate her rambunctious daughter’s position.  The daughter learns, apparently, that dosing your mother with a cake made by a wood carving witch in the woods is a horrible mistake.  Not because she doesn’t get what she wants out of the ordeal, but because turning your mom into a bear means you might have to watch while your amputee revenge seeking, bear hating father turns her into a trophy.

Oh, by the way, when mom and the triplets are transformed back into people, they’re naked.  Maybe Pixar is reaching for another genre?