Saturday, June 23, 2012


by C.J. Chase
PIXAR--the company that brought us kiddie blockbusters such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Cars--returns to theaters with Brave this weekend.

First, a couple words about PIXAR. I love this company's movies. PIXAR has made its name by focusing first and foremost on story. Before special effects or animation or anything else, a movie (like a book) must tell a rousing good story. This is where PIXAR consistently excels. Consider that they have yet to produce a flop. Yeah, C.J. has some serious writer envy going on.

Years ago I read a wonderful article about PIXAR's company culture that places story above all else. (I'd link to it, but it was so long ago, I'm not sure it exists on the Internet.) When PIXAR writers turned in the first version of Toy Story 3, the company head honcho tossed out the script. Completely. The story wasn't strong enough. (When PIXAR finally made a third installment of their Toy Story franchise, it became the highest grossing animated film in history and only the third animated film nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. Coincidence? Um, probably not.)

PIXAR produced Brave in partnership with Disney. While Brave is appropriate for children (note: very young may find the fight scene at the end intense), the moral aims straight at teenagers and their parents.

Princess Merida's mother, the queen, harbors definite ideas about how a princess should look and behave. But Merida, as is often typical of young people, has her own ideas of what she wants for her future. The two talk past each other but never listen to each other.

The widening rift leads Merida to run away to the forest where she encounters a witch. Witches cast spells, right? Merida purchases a spell to change her mother.

But she gets more than she expected. (Note to teenagers, if you want your parents to change, be specific.) Now Merida and her mother must find a way to change Mom back before the spell becomes permanent. The witch provides a single clue:

Fate be changed
Look inside
Mend the bond
Torn by pride

Brave has a fabulous score of Celtic themed music (yes, including bagpipes) by Patrick Doyle. Doyle has been a favorite of mine since his 1989 collaboration with Kenneth Branagh in Henry V. The movie also has numerous laugh-out-loud jokes poking gentle fun at haggis, kilts, and all things Scottish.

I took a poll in the car on the way home, and the Chase family consensus was 4.5 stars. We all agreed that it was a bit predictable and lacked the emotional punch of Up and Toy Story 3. But it's a PIXAR production and still better than most movies out there.

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Her next book, The Reluctant Earl, will be available in February of 2013. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at


  1. Ah!

    I've been looking forward to this for a year. It's at the drive in nearby (with Madagascar and The Avengers) not that I could stay up through three movies sitting in my truck).

    So you think the end scene is too intense for little ones? what if the little one was very Brave? I guess my daughter and I will have to go see it and then decide how long we have to wait to take the granddaughter who is basically fearless.

    Thanks for going to the movies just so you could do a post, C.J. That was quite selfless of you!

  2. I didn't want to give away too much, so I was pretty vague, Deb. Dh says "It's not very long." No blood or anything like that--just some, er, people going at it and the bad guy dies.

    My oldest son used to leave the room when the music changed in a movie because he could tell this were going to get "scary." (He'd have been about 4 then.) So, I used that as my guideline: would C have left the room during this scene? I decided he probably would have. Now my son with Down Syndrome has never seemed particularly upset by movies. I think a lot goes over his head, and I don't know that he has the same kind of wild imagination as his brother.

    You might check a couple other family friendly review sites.

  3. Ack. Where's the edit button???

    this = things


  4. The clip looks impressive, but that girl's gonna get hurt if she persists in loosing arrows without a bracer (that's a sort of leather fingerless glove used by archer's to protect the top of the hand). I know Pixar archery is about looking cool, but what about health & safety?

  5. I want to see this one. I love anything with a strong heroine.

  6. I'm hoping to see Brave this afternoon. Unfortunately I'll have to go by myself since no one in my orbit will go to an animated film. All my family members who would go live too far away. Sniff.....

    I'm with Dina. I love strong heroines. I read somewhere that Princess Merida will be joining the Disney Princess line-up./

    Great review, CJ. I love how Pixar takes their time. Next up - next year - Monsters Academy (of Monsters Inc. fame). Yipee!

  7. Methinks my niece is going to like this one- though she might have seen it already. According to this one has a strong female lead, but it does not depict all the male characters as stupid or buffoons like some 'girl power' movies do.

  8. Dina, it definitely has a strong female lead, but the heart of the movie is a mother-daughter relationship. Imagine what two strong females with different opinions means to a relationship...

  9. Suzie, I can't believe you can't find anyone to watch an animated movie with you! Of course, we have a son with Down Syndrome, so even though our youngest is 14, we tend to see lots of movies made for elementary age kids. It's an activity we can do with him and at a level he can understand. (Hey, at least we aren't stuck going to ones aimed at the preschool crowd.)

    Ask me to name the hit movies for adults, and I draw a blank.

  10. Anna, my husband thought PIXAR could have done a better job with the male characters, but the focus was really on the mother-daughter relationship. Without giving away the ending, my guess is that we will see a Brave 2 in a few years (with a larger male presence in that one).

  11. I've been eager to see this! Glad you got to see it opening day, CJ. It's pulled in all sorts of money.

    Great review.

  12. I'm looking forward to this movie. I love Pixar. They found the heart that Disney seemed to have lost in all their PC-ness. :D

  13. Susie, it was a sacrifice to see this on opening day, but we at Inkwell aim to be on the cutting edge. I do it for the readers!

  14. DeAnna, I'd noticed that Disney seemed to have a run of less-than-spectacular animated features in the last decade or so (after some truly great ones such as Beauty and the Beast), so I'm glad PIXAR was there to step in the breach.

    I thought they could have provided a stronger male figure in this one, but maybe in Brave 2...

  15. Thanks, CJ. This is a great review and I'm really looking forward to this movie.

    I agree, I used to think Disney was the best, but if you base it on what they've produced this decade, they're not even in the right century.

    Three cheers for Pixar for standing up for what really matters.

  16. A friend of my husband's, someone with whom he went to high school, was one of the digital animators on this movie. We're just trying to figure out whose child we can borrow so we don't feel silly going to a kid's movie with just us.


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