Issac's Review of Brave
Inadvertently I have watched this two Disney animations hand-in-hand (TANGLED is from the orthodox Disney branch while BRAVE is its flagship Pixar production), which seems to be a perfect paradigm to juxtapose them together and to dissect the state-of-the-art tendency of the mainstream genre (enormously profitable since its chief target are zero in on family with children, so it has a much more important and instructive obligation other than merely an entertainment for the toddlers and above).
Coincidentally both films' heroines are princess (Rapunzel in TANGLED and a Scottish Merida in BRAVE), adapted from Grimm Brothers' tale, TANGLED is supremely reminiscent of Disney's other established princess analogs trapped in a magic world, let's say Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, what's more, there will always be a prince-charming to deserve and requite her love. Wisely Rapunzel's Flynn Rider has been sizeably modernized as a reckless, self-mocking yet conservatively "Disney" prince with a thief background.
But in BRAVE, Merida is a much more radical rebel by blood, she doesn't have or need a prince with white horse (the film doesn't care to proffer one since all her tribe suitors are one-of-a-kind wackos), she is fighting against her predestined life path which her mother has arranged for her and her status has requested her, a tad thread-bone notwithstanding, but chronicling with a single-linear arc, the mother-daughter predicament has slipped to the hanging-by-a-thread situation when a magic spell transfigures the Queen's appearance into a bear which cannot be recanted after the second sunrise, therefore, instigates an intimate bonding phase for the two, viscerally the mutual love only exudes when something unusual happens, while living in the mundane life, we are all suffering and grated by the love with a insurmountable generation gap.
Rapunzel, on the other hand, her main barrier is the ultimate breakthrough from her "mother" Gothel (a greatly overlooked Donna Murphy), who raises her and locks her up in the tower for 18 years, treats her as her own out of a selfish but very understandable motivation (to rejuvenate her youth), but out of any sequential transition, all of a sudden Rapunzel miraculously remember her princess identity (she was taken away when she was an infant, so I doubt there is any memory there, more like an implausible epiphany or actually a screenwriter's block), what's more unbelievably awkward is that she immediately snarls back to her "mother" as if all the recollections of Gothel's evil scheme has been replayed in front of her eyes and she has been tortured for all that year long (actually she is fairly happy and content alone with her cutesy chameleon) , which I deem as a child's play, very much panders to its core audience of pre-school demography.
So, from a vantage point under the contemporary context, BRAVE is far more daring and enthralling from its "no guts no glory" premise, it is able to identify with a way broader audience, which is also the main ingredient of the winsome recipe "why Pixar can keep excelling all its peers (if not itself) on the top-tier of the hierarchy", in spite of that on a technical level, all the major animation studios in Hollywood (DREAMWORKS, BLUE SKY STUDIOS, etc.) are almost equally cutting-edge.
Music is Disney's strong suit, the first half of TANGLED is a conventional musical showcase, culminating the saccharine romance with the Oscar-nominated theme-song I SEE THE LIGHT, fusing with an intoxicating lanterns-all-over-the-sky spectacle, this has always been the tactic to emit Disney's overblown sentimentality, I am certain it is no longer an all-age proof method now. In BRAVE, although Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson's heavy Scottish accents do not get along with my ears, the exotic score and tunes are generally agreeable, and what's more admirable, it doesn't steal the thunder of the film per se.
Honestly speaking after the astonishingly-acclaimed WALL-E (2008, 9/10), UP (2009, 9/10) and TOY STORY 3 (2010, 9/10), I automatically skipped last years CAR 2 (2011), BRAVE is a left-field choice, the scale of the story has been slimmed down to a quite unimaginable mother-daughter clash, even grafting it on the most platitudinous soil of a princess's tale. But by good fortune, the film doesn't smear Pixar's paramount reputation, Merida goes through a well-deployed rite-of-passage and the sub-plots such as the blue wisps, the ancient lore of the discontent brother and the witch's hut are all positioned into the right niche to uplift the mythology and idiosyncrasy of the film.
As for TANGLED, Disney will never relinquish its tradition (otherwise Walt Disney will definitely be jumping inside his tomb), and it is also an exquisitely-made piece of work, just unfortunately paled by comparison by BRAVE since there is no sparks glittering and all the chirpy happiness seems synthetic and a bit stale.