John Ary here with my second stab at Brave.
It took me a few days to figure out exactly why I disliked it. I was really into the movie during the first act. The animation is beautiful. The main character is fantastic. The setup with the rival clans and the pressures the family puts on the daughter are interesting.
Then there’s a plot twist in the second act that took me out of the movie. For some reason, everything after the plot twist felt hollow and I couldn’t figure out why. I then came to realize just how unimportant the themes of the movie are to the plot. It wants you to think the movie is about destiny and free will, but ultimately you could swap these themes out with others like saving the environment, animal cruelty or the family dynamic. It doesn’t really matter what theme you want to substitute for destiny. Any theme will do. All that matters here is that the daughter and the mother have a some sort of conflict to get them into the second act.
I came up with an equation that spells out my point.
X+Magic Cake= Plot Twist
(Plot Twist+Princess) / Conflict = Understanding
Understanding+X = Happy Ending
Substitute any theme for X and you end up with basically the same movie, just with a slightly different opening act.
The equation probably won’t make much sense to you if you haven’t seen the film, so I go deeper into the plot with some spoilers in the video below.
Pixar movies for the most part work because they feel like they are about something important. WALL-E illustrated a strong message about ecology and self-reliance. Toy Story is about friendship, how to handle change and making judgements about others. The Incredibles is about learning how to be yourself. If you try to swap out these themes, you would have radically different movie experiences. That’s simply not the case with Brave.