Feisty heroine cut from a new mold or pseudo-feminist misfire? What critics are saying about "Brave"
The arrows slung by Merida, the princess in Pixar's "Brave," struck most critics as if shot from Cupid's bow, but some simply couldn't get past what they saw as the studio's first feminist misfire.
The movie, headlined by a fiery-haired, Rebekah Brooks-esque heroine, earned a respectable 71 percent fresh rating on the critics' aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The film, Pixar's first to feature a female protagonist, opens Friday in the United States, where it earned some glowing praise from critics excited to see a feisty femme on the big screen.
TheWrap's Alonso Duralde was pleased to see a heroine break the mold of not just the typical Disney princess, but the typical children's film.
"The usual plot outline for kids' movies gives us hero who learns to believe in himself," he wrote, "this time, the heroine has to get everyone else to believe in her as much as she already believes in herself, while at the same time respecting and understanding the traditions being passed down to her."
In the New York Times, Manohla Dargis praised Merida as the "anti-Rapunzel," a heroine that rejects her betrothed prince and lets her red locks cascade wildly down her shoulders.
"There's so much beauty, so much untamed animation in this hair that it makes Merida look like a hothead, a rebel, the little princess who wouldn't and didn't," Daris wrote. "Then again, Rapunzel has a supernice head of hair too."
In "Brave," New York magazine's David Edelstein found a film that empowers its female protagonist motivated not by the desire to beat the boys, but, in this case, to level with her mother.
"In addition to being fast, funny, and unpretentious, 'Brave' is a happy antidote to all the recent films in which women triumph by besting men at their own macho games, as if the history of male dominance is one of patriarchs suppressing females' essential warlike nature," he wrote. "Merida wants nothing more than to control her own fate, her rage provoked by the refusal of her mother — for whom duty and subservience are paramount — to see the world through her eyes."
But, despite the bounce in Merida's curls, some critics felt the film falls flat.
Deadspin's Will Leitch graded "Brave" a C, a superficial, soulless story spiced up with stunning animation, all of which serves more as a PR move from Pixar which has been consistently criticized for its lack of female heroes.
"This is the first time, narratively, that Pixar hasn't bothered to sweat the small stuff," he wrote. "I'm not sure what the problem is — maybe they just thought having a female lead was enough? — but to see a Pixar movie this sloppy, conventional, and slipshod is downright flabbergasting. Maybe it really is a boy's club after all.
For Ty Burr of the Boston Globe, "Brave" didn't feel bold at all, rather it seemed like an odd take on a conventional tale.
"If 'Brave' ends up in a richly emotional place almost in spite of itself, the strain of stitching it all together shows," he wrote. "We would expect this kind of overstuffed joyride from Dreamworks Animation or the folks at Fox or even Disney itself. But it's terribly ordinary for Pixar, and ordinary is no longer enough."