Brave

Not the best from Pixar

Pic source: Wikipedia

Brave is the first fairy tale style film from Pixar and the first film from the animation studio to have a female lead character. The film’s trailers looked great and I was curious about the adventures of the red-haired Scottish princess. However, I left the theatre disappointed. Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, Brave is the weakest Pixar film I have seen (seen all except Cars & Cars 2); the animation is nice and there are great visuals, but the real problem with Brave is its weak script (screenplay: Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell, Brenda Chapman & Irene Mecchi). The story is new but does not seem fresh; it is predictable and does not pack a punch.

Set in a Scottish kingdom, Brave tells the story of Princess Merida (voice: Kelly Macdonald) who wants to be the mistress of her own fate. The headstrong princess is an accomplished archer and is a daddy’s girl (Billy Connolly as King Fergus); her mother, Queen Elinor’s (Emma Thompson) attempts to teach her the ways of the royalty amuse as well as irritate her. The mother-daughter relationship and Merida’s acts of defiance are the best part of the film; one can relate to her as she struggles to be understood by her parents. Merida is likeable but somehow there is not enough done to make the audience connect with her emotionally. The resolution to the big problem she faces seems rather simple and yes, there is the usual ‘moral of the story’ that makes the film a bit preachy in parts.

Coming to the animation, one cannot really question Pixar in this department. There are beautiful forest sequences and the aerial views are breathtaking; water is shown beautifully and appears real. However, the use of 3D does not add to the film’s rich visuals, the way it was done in Dreamworks’ Scottish inspired outing, How to Train Your Dragon. I wish Merida had more spunk like Princess Fiona (Shrek); there were more surprises in the story with a better climax; and more pop culture references (like Madagascar 3) to keep the adults engaged.

It is summer time and Brave is a good option for kids but unlike other Pixar gems, this one does not really shine for adults.

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Madagascar 3 Europe’s Most Wanted

This one’s not to be missed…

Pic source: Wikipedia

Our favourite animals are back and as the film’s title, ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ suggests they are shaking up things in Europe this time. For those unfamiliar with the series, it follows the adventures of four zoo animals from New York who accidentally get shipped to Madagascar in the first film; crash land in Africa while trying to get back to NYC in the second one and make an impressive journey through Europe in the latest film.

Madagascar 3 starts in Africa where Alex the lion (Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) once again decide to get back home – the Central Park Zoo. They go to Monte Carlo to join the Penguins who can fly them in their specially assembled aircraft (if you’re not following what the Penguins are doing in Monte Carlo and where did the aircraft come from, do watch the earlier films). All doesn’t go as planned and the large group of animals is chased by a maniacal animal control officer, Captain Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand). Their plane crashes again and they take shelter in a train carrying circus animals. Here we are introduced to Stefano the sea-lion (Martin Short), Gia the jaguar (Jessica Chastain) and Vitaly the tiger (Bryan Cranston), amongst others. The film has a lot of excitement and moves at a fast pace (editing: Nick Fletcher); there are thrilling chase sequences and a lot of other action, with Europe’s iconic landmarks in the background. While the love angle between Melman and Gloria moves forward, the real mush comes from the love at first sight story between King Julien the lemur (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Sonya the bear (Frank Welker). Their romance is one of the highlights in the film, which also has an elaborate circus sequence inspired by Cirque du Soleil.

Apart from the fantastic animation (Dreamworks) and great use of 3D, Madagascar 3 has some great writing (Eric Darnell & Noah Baumbach). There are the usual character driven lines that make you laugh, especially Marty, King Julien and the Penguins; but the real winning moments are subtle and at times not so subtle references to the European culture. For example, we are informed about the French working culture that requires work for only two weeks a year! Then there is Frances McDormand’s rendition of ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ (No, I have no regrets) that has special significance for the French – it was sung by Édith Piaf in 1960 as a dedication to the French Foreign Legion (seems master composer Hans Zimmer loves the song; he included it in the Inception soundtrack too). I was also surprised with a smart reference to the Rita Hayworth poster from Shawshank Redemption. So many interesting tidbits make the film more engaging and enjoyable for the adults while the children enjoy the animated action.

Directed by Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon, Madagascar 3 is a must watch film this summer in 3D.

I am also looking forward to Ice Age: Continental Drift in 3D that releases on July 13. Folks in the UK can enjoy the film at Odeon which has more IMAX screens in the country than any other cinema chain. You can find more information on ticket and viewing options on Ice Age Continental Drift 3D at Odeon web page. In India, Mumbaikars can enjoy it at IMAX Big Cinema in Wadala and in Delhi I am going to try PVR Director’s Cut soon.