I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I went to see Pixar’s new film. They always do a great job of showing little of the actual movie in the trailers, but what they did show made it look like they borrowed the CG sets from How to Train Your Dragon, then threw in a little bit of Robin Hood with some bears. That turned out to be a different story.

I’ve been soured on Pixar as of late. While they turn out quality films, I personally don’t feel they’re as perfect as many do, especially with the dull merchandising vehicle that is the Cars franchise. I was also disappointed two years ago that Toy Story 3 won best animated film. It was well done, and I did get a tad choked up once, and the growing older story resonated with me, but I connected with and enjoyed How to Train Your Dragon much more. For some reason, TS3 felt a bit sterile when it was finished, like the filmmakers were tired and just wanted to get through it. That seems to be the case with many Pixar films to me though. I’m not sure precisely what it is either. I see greatness, but then I don’t leave the theater with that excited energy I may get from others.

I saw Brave on a cloudy Saturday afternoon (it was cheaper) and had to pop my contacts in for the day to better use the 3D glasses. I’ve tried to put them over regular glasses, I really have, but it kills the affect. I noticed this with Kung Fu Panda last year. It weakens the depth and immersion without the lens as close to your eye as possible, at least with me anyway. Before the movie started, I knew it was going to be a good afternoon since we were treated to a new trailer for The Hobbit. Can’t wait. It reminded me of years ago when I went to see Wing Commander just for a Star Wars trailer. What a horrible movie that turned out to be (settle down SW fans, I meant Wing Commander.) After a few more trailers and commercials, the obligatory Pixar short played. It was an odd one involving the moon, a kid, his father, and his grandfather. I’ll just say it made me sleepy in a good way.

What Brave turned out to be was a “follow your dreams” story, although handled in such a way as to be refreshing and surprising. I’m not going to spoil how it ends up, but it’s a more realistic outcome than what we always see. Brave stars Merida, a girl with unmanageable long hair (really, it spends most of the movie being an absolute mess) who’s grown up with the conflict of her mother wanting her to be the proper princess she’s supposed to be, and her father who encourages her to learn how to use weapons, in particular the bow and arrow where she has great skill. As she grows older, the conflict with her mother rises until Merida turns to magical means to get her mother to get over it. What follows is a scene that has a major Snow White vibe, along with a crow that needed more screen time.

One frame later, she throws her pokeball.

Watching Merida and her mother bond as a result of her mistake is wonderful and the real heart of the film. They both learn something from each other. The other characters are great too, including her father, whose glory days seem behind him. I really liked Merida’s three suitors who are a strange mix of pathetic and likable. I actually wanted her to end up with one of them. I didn’t care too much for Merida’s triplet brothers, but thankfully they aren’t too important in the movie. They do get a great scene near the end though, something foreshadowed earlier that has a satisfying payoff.

There’s also one hell of a fight near the end involving a bear . . .or two. You can really feel the power and weight of them in the theater, and gave me some great ideas for writing a such a conflict in my own work.

While there were a few things I’d have liked to have seen more of (the crow for one,) I really enjoyed Brave and would definitely see it again. It’s a strong story with some great voice acting, and of course the whole film is gorgeous, especially in 3D. Check it out.