It was probably bound to happen. Few directors, or even studios, can score a perfect bullseye on every outing, and Pixar was admittedly pushing it a bit by now. Brave extends the slump that Toy Story 3 hid perfectly and that the underwhelming Cars 2 suggested, being more of an old-fashioned Disney fairy-tale with a twist about a Scottish princess whose rebelliousness jeopardises her father's kingdom than a boundary-pushing Pixar take on the genre of girl-driven fairy-tales. The big question is whether this lesser inventiveness was there from the beginning of co-director and co-writer Brenda Chapman's concept, or whether it resulted from the takeover halfway through production by creative director Mark Andrews.
Regardless, it's clear that, despite Pixar's "story first" mantra, this here story isn't particularly impressive despite its lovely Celtic setting and the classy animation work. The idea of a young woman coming of age as she decides to take her fate into her hands and break with the traditions of her clan is enmeshed with the classic fairy-tale device of the spell gone wrong, suggesting there is no way for a princess movie to escape tradition. And that is truly a realisation of what is wrong with this latest Pixar production: you expect a film that will break the glass ceiling of what animation should be, you get just another kids' movie. Admittedly a cut above the average, exquisitely designed, smartly handled, with a few wonderful set-pieces, but at heart just another kids' movie. And, sorry to say, we expect more from Pixar than just another kids' movie.
Voice cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson
Directors: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
Screenplay: Mr. Andrews, Mr. Purcell, Ms. Chapman, Irene Mecchi, from a story by Ms. Chapman
Photography (camera): Robert Anderson
Photography (lighting): Danielle Feinberg
Designer: Steve Pilcher
Editor: Nicholas C. Smith
Music: Patrick Doyle
Producer: Katherine Sarafian (Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios)
USA, 2012, 93 minutes
Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo Colombo 6 (Lisbon), July 31st 2012