Hi everyone, this column will likely not be coherent. It’s been a tough few days at work—one of those weeks that make me run off to join the circus—which I would do except for my severe coulrophobia, the fear of clowns (who says you don’t learn anything new reading Jagged Noodles?). Really, if I want to see scary people with horrible makeup wearing ridiculous clothing, I’d just go to Capitol Hill and observe the hipsters.
Anyway, to relax, I went to see Pixar’s new film “Brave.” In fact, I dragged Jameelah and two other couples for the midnight showing. I love midnight showings. It’s totally college-style, especially if you sneak in with your own snacks. We had several packages of toasted seaweed, along with a bag of Tim’s Cascade jalapeno-flavored potato chips. I waited anxiously like a kid, hoping to be pulled into the wonderful world that Pixar is so good at creating.
Well, that didn’t really happen. Sure, the animation was great, with lush sceneries so real you feel like dusting off the old kilt and go frolicking in the Scottish highlands. Everything else was ‘meh.’ Actually, Merida’s hair, so realistic, each strand as wild and untamed as her character, annoyed me. The whole time, I was thinking “Kid, we get it, you’re an independent spirit. Great. Just comb your hair once in a while. There’s probably a family of raccoons living in it.”
If you don’t know the story, Merida is a tomboyish princess who loves to shoot at things with her bow and arrows. Her mother wants her to be a proper princess. She comes of age and must choose a husband among the three other clans in order to keep peace among the kingdom. The suitors are all idiots; she doesn’t want to marry any of them. Then she runs into a witch, who was actually one of the better characters in the movie, barters for a spell, and of course it goes wrong so that we can advance the plot. (Can’t we get a spell that just does exactly what people want for once?!) Something terrible happens to her mother, and she must learn her lesson about love and loyalty and blah blah to break the spell.
Really, the movie saddens me, because it’s not just a movie. It’s a Pixar movie. Pixar, which gave us moving masterpieces like “Up,” which had me weeping within five minutes (something of an achievement, considering the Lasik surgery in Vietnam that ruined my tear ducts). A chubby little Asian kid and a curmudgeon become friends. Or “Ratatouille” about a rat trying to be a chef. We go from unique and iconic heroes to … a whiny teenager with poor hygiene. She is not unlikeable, but she is a typical whiny teenager, just with a really cool Scottish accent. Who cares if her actions might cause war among the clans and lead to the death of thousands, she must “change mi feet.” (I think it’s “fate.” Those darn Scots and their adorable accent!) Merida, then, is basically a millennial.
Besides a weak protagonist, the other characters are not all that compelling. Pixar is known to imbue even their minor characters with endearing charms and complexity. Think of the little school children in “Finding Nemo,” or the workers at “Monsters, Inc.” Here we have simple, oafish men who indulge in Stooge-like slapstick. Heck, half the movie is unnecessary slapstick violence. The only redeeming character is the mother, who is loving and wise, and kind of sexy. Her transformation halfway through the movie is both silly and affecting.
Overall, it’s not a horrible film, but by Pixar standards, and combined with the insipid and commercialized pile of trash that is the “Cars” franchise, Pixar is losing its touch. Cars is incomprehensively stupid, lacking any internal logic: an entire universe comprising of just cars. No humans, just cars. They fall in love. They reproduce. They eat sushi. It’s creepy and disturbing. “Brave” is better, but it is by no means courageous like other offerings. With its next movie, Pixar needs to find a spell to “change its feet.”
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