Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: The Dark Knight Rises

What are the odds that these buildings would do that? Crazy, man!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the risk of infuriating fanboys the world over, The Dark Knight Rises is not the greatest film ever made. It’s definitely a good, well-made film, but whether it’s truly a “Batman film” is arguable.

What it is, in the end, is a better than average action film with some good character moments that are not in line with, not just the comic and other media adaptations of Gotham’s heroes, but the previous films of Nolan’s trilogy.

There will be some heavy spoilers for Dark Knight and some very light spoilers for other Bat-media (like Rises) included herein, so consider this your warning.

When last we left stately Wayne Manor, Bruce had taken Batman to the next level and started really cleaning up the streets while Commissioner Gordon was managing to slowly clean up the police force when the Joker killed Bruce’s childhood sweetheart and drove Harvey Dent into madness as the villain Two-Face. Batman took the fall for Dent’s “murder” and went into hiding.

Eight years later, Wayne is hidden away as a recluse in the rebuilt Manor, limping along with a cane as a metaphor for his broken spirit after Rachel Dawes’ killing. And right away we see our first issue with the film.

There are examples of Batman hanging up his cowl in various alternate stories, certainly. In Batman Beyond, Bruce quits after suffering a heart attack in his sixties while performing a rescue and having to use a gun to defend himself. (The Bat’s pathological hatred of firearms is well-established since at least the 70s, which always made me confused when his Bat-vehicles contain so much firepower, especially in the Nolan films.) There’s Dark Knight Returns in which Frank Miller had Batman coming out of a retirement based on a mysterious and convenient plot maguffin. But in the past, it has been indicated as a simple fact of the character that Bats would never stop his vigilantism until he’s physically unable to do so. Seemingly, this was present in the first two films as well.

If we ignore that issue, there are still some very strange turns for Bruce, Bane, Alfred and a few of the other characters. Looking at the film singly under its own logic, the choices mostly work. Looking at it as part of a trilogy, it gets less so. This would not be as big a problem if there weren’t so many allusions and continuations of plot threads from the first two films. Admittedly, while watching the film I was caught up in the narrative and it wasn’t until later that the issues presented themselves. The story takes its time, which is not a bad thing. It may seem just a tad clunky towards the beginning, but by the halfway mark things settle in and start getting more and more dense. When the film ends, it is amid a flurry of revelations and big action, most of which works well.

If you’re looking for political commentary, you certainly can. Granted, that’s true for just about every film if you really dig hard enough (or are crazy enough), but Dark Knight Rises, absolutely lays claim to more than most. The smart thing Nolan did was make it ambiguous and based enough on the stylized fantasy aspects of Gotham, a fictional city that is often seemingly a mix of Dicken’s London, 1930’s Chicago and a goth kid’s imagination, that it can be interpreted in a variety of different ways and it doesn’t seem like some Law & Order “ripped from the headlines” episode. Not any more than The Joker’s reign of terror in Dark Knight could be seen as a direct commentary on Al Queda. It may be there, but it’s well-written enough that it is folded into the narrative and used as an undercurrent for existing material.

The film introduces a couple of major foes from the Bat-universe; Selena Kyle, popularly known as the sometimes anti-hero Catwoman but never referred to as such in the film, is largely responsible for the fall that requires the “Rise” of the title. Fortunately, Anne Hathaway’s natural likability is enough to keep the audience from turning on her. Her part in the film is that of the disenfranchised from Gotham. Seemingly borrowing some elements from the excellent Ed Brubaker run on the character, she deals with Gotham’s criminal underclass. She slips in and out of high and low society with ease, slipping into her various roles with a slinky confidence which always carries an undercurrent of confidence and self-preservation under any circumstances. Bane finally gets his due in the film as he gets to show off the kind of thinking that set him up as Batman’s Doomsday in the 90s. He was used to decent effect in the animated series for sure, but like Ras Al-Ghul before him, he had never been adapted halfway properly in live-action. His only appearance? As a lackey in Joel Schumaker’s franchise-murdering Batman and Robin. While he is certainly not a direct translation from the books in Rises, he is absolutely taken seriously as an adversary. As far as new characters go, there’s Officer John Blake, a surface-level point of view that is supposed to show what the average Gothamite thinks. He takes up a good chunk of the movie, so it’s a good thing Joseph Gordon-Levitt is able to keep him just interesting enough to not be sleep-inducing.

Let’s be honest; if you have seen the first two Batman films, you know what you’re walking into. While Rises is the weakest of the trilogy, it does not end with a whimper. There’s plenty here to inspire desire for yet another film. There are explosions, fights, car chases and everything else you’ve been waiting for and it’s all better done than a hundred Transformers films.

(Three and a half out of five stars)

Aisle Of The Damned Episode XII: Oh The Weather Outside Is Weather…

In our twizzling twelfth episode we review Men In Black and Big on Blu-Ray, the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed (with WENG WENG!) and Kent finally sees The Bourne Supremacy. Then in our theatrical reviews we review Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Brave. Its a short but DAMN exquisite episode.

Music: The Aquabats – Stuck In A Movie, The Real McKenzies – Scots Round The World

Find Us on iTunes

Facebook: Aisle of the Damned

Twitter: @aisleofdamned

Email: aisleofthedamned@gmail.com

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s newest film, Moonrise Kingdom is, as I described it to a friend, his Wes Ander-most film. In a lot of ways, this feels like the culmination of all his previous films into the pinnacle of his artistic style.

Want over-smart, precocious kids? This one has two of them. Big visual jokes, like the kind that entered his filmic vocabulary in his last movie, the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox? Check. An all-star cast working for peanuts? Bigger than ever. A French new-wave style of cinematography, updated to fit an American story-book aesthetic? Here in spades. Bill Murray? Boom, baby. Oddball characters that take comfort in their strange routines and ceremony? A-yup. Mark Mothersbaugh or Alexandre Desplat music? Both, actually. British invasion tunes? Well, okay, not that one. But there is a great French ye-ye tune that fans of April March’s covers will probably recognize.

The big difference is that, unlike his other films that seem to have been made in the past, taking place in an anachronistic future, this one actually is a period piece set on a New England island in the mid-1960s. Well, that and the fact that it’s his first live-action film that is not rated R.

The story behind Moonrise Kingdom is that of a 12-year-old couple which decide to escape their miserable lives and head into the wild, launching a community-wide search by the whole island (including the Boy Scout stand-in “Khaki Scouts”) to recover the pair before the “worst storm of the second half of the 20th century” hits.

The story then moves along at a clip, pausing for the appropriate character moments, until its entertaining conclusion in which the storm hits and all hell breaks loose. In the meantime, the kids are delightfully twisted. Sam, the boy who escapes camp and is smaller than the girl, Suzy, displays a Max Fischer-like confidence beyond his years and enjoys painting (landscapes and nudes, mostly.) Suzy is the quiet daughter of a lawyer couple who loves to read female-centric adventure fiction. Both of them are considered to have “mental problems.” It’s a great look into how little it sometimes takes to be cast a misfit and how society attempts to curb those who don’t fit in. Even if they’d rather just peacefully remove themselves from everyone else to be on their own, using the metaphor of a couple of young kids in the woods, society won’t let them, as evidenced by the extreme measures Sam’s fellow scouts are initially willing to go through to bring him back. Anderson’s bread and butter has been shining lights on outcasts and misunderstood geniuses and Moonrise Kingdom absolutely follows that arc. The way Anderson seems to bring back his eternal-autumn color palate and scenery from Fox just helps move along an almost never-ending sense of sunset falling over the end of American innocence. At the same time, perhaps a little ironically, the more family-friendly rating actually seems to help bring out the whimsy in his work, while never feeling like he’s pulled his punches.

There truly are some stand-out performances in the film. Ed Norton puts in what may be his best performance in a long time as the troop’s scoutmaster that tasks himself with trying to bring back his lost member. Jason Schwartzman is hilarious as another supposed Khaki leader that is at once a terrible authority figure and a character you will likely be rooting for. But really all the actors seem to be working together in service of the story and with deference to the main kids. Speaking of kids, Anderson coaxes fantastic performances out of his young actors, especially the scouts who exude tons of personality in a short period of time, often with just their appearance and a few actions.

It’s absolutely a fantastic experience that, if you’re a Wes-head like me, will be one of the best films of the summer and make you laugh. (Though granted, I was laughing more than just about anyone else in the theater.) In any case, in my opinion, it’s a lovely film that manages to build on Anderson’s previous work and themes while never feeling like a retread of that work.

(Four and a half stars out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Men in Black 3

Gotta get back in time, da da da da na na na!

If Men in Black II had been as successful as Men in Black 3, we probably wouldn’t have had to wait 10 years between chapters.

While not as good as the original film, Barry Sonnenfeld’s return to the world of the besuited alien wrangers is definitely a step-up from the flaccid mediocrity of the first sequel. There aren’t any attempts to shoe-horn in characters from the first two movies that don’t work with the plot, for one thing. While the new characters are not as memorable as Vincent D’Onofrio’s bug or Linda Fiorentino’s medical examiner, Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords is just fine (and largely unrecognizable) as the installment’s villain, Boris “The Animal.” While initially not seeming to be very unique, it turns out there’s a lot more to the character and he ends up being a bizarre new addition to the annals of weird-ass extraterrestrials. He’s one of Rick Baker’s better creations of recent memory. For whatever reason, Rip Torn does not return for this particular installment, and the film is the poorer for it. But while Emma Thompson is an acceptable, though certainly not exciting, replacement as the head of the MIB agency, her past self in the form of Alice Eve gets more of an opportunity to be lovely and charming, giving young Agent Kay every reason to be enamored with her.

As you probably realized from that, this particular segment of the series takes place largely in 1969 and it is during this part of the film that it truly shines. In the present, Tommy Lee Jones is so dour that it almost seems like he’s lapsed into self-parody. Frankly, it’s to the point that it’s just sad. He looks about ready to disintegrate as he continues to take on the appearance of an English bulldog, but fortunately Josh Brolin doesn’t just take over as Young Kay, but he thoroughly improves on the character, taking him back to the sharp wittiness of the original character. (It doesn’t hurt that he puts out an incredible impression of Jones in his prime.) While Will Smith’s Will Smithiness continues to get more and more tired, he is smart enough to get out of the way in a lot of cases and let Brolin shine. On the alien front, there’s a fun new addition with an original twist: Griffin, a being that can see into all possible futures. Even better, Bill Hader turns in a performance as Andy Warhol that utterly steals the film despite only appearing for about ten minutes.

The 60’s flavor extends to the visuals and the music, leading to a refreshing change. The great nods to the era, with little in jokes like the aliens looking far more retro-era than those of the previous films, make up for minor story issues and help keep the film light and entertaining. The insertion of a few well-chosen psychedelic cues to the highly Elfman-y Danny Elfman score help cement the overall feel of the film as well. In the end it adds to the charm that keeps the film afloat for it’s running time. In the end, it’s a cotton candy film. It’s light, but tasty and full of empty calories. Sometimes that’s all you want though.

One suggestion: If it’s decided to make another entry into the franchise, think about making it a period piece with Brolin, Hollywood.

(Three out of five stars)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: The Amazing Spider-Man

Doin' whatever a parkour man can.

The biggest issue with The Amazing Spider-Man is the deja vu feeling of “been there, done that.” It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not an improvement over the film that cropped up ten years ago with Tobey Maguire (though it certainly seems to think it’s more important.)

While the Sam Raimi movies ended with a thud in 2007 with the studio-asphyxiated Spider-Man 3, the first two are still mostly highly regarded. Raimi’s high-octane direction and the bright, comic book visuals helped sell the film’s reality (even as the characters just seemed a little off.) While the current film should be measured on its own merits, there are definitely comparisons to be made to the original films, both good and bad, and they’re pretty inescapable given the short amount of time between them.

In the good category, the cast is just stronger. Whilst Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker retains all the emo-ness of Maguire’s performance over this retread of the origin story (sometimes to a far more annoying extreme as he begins withdrawing from the world in a bipolar division of excessive highs in which he discovers the extent of his new powers and angst-fueled, violent breakdowns), he embodies the modern look of the character to a higher degree and manages to hew closer to the smartass on the page that quips while taking down hoods and ridiculous villains. Martin Sheen is no improvement over the original Uncle Ben (Cliff Roberson), but he is given more to do. Sally Field is still not much like either the original or “Ultimate” Aunt May, but she isn’t the bizarre choice that Rosemary Harris’ Scandinavian hausfrau was. Flash Thompson gets a chance to be a real character and there’s a nice smattering of recurring incidental characters that help make the high school seem more realistic. (Even as Garfield and Emma Stone are pretty obviously far too old to be playing the characters.) Dennis Leary takes over as Captain Stacy from the barely there James Cromwell in the third film and does a great job underplaying his usual Leary-isms. The biggest improvement is Stone, whose Gwen Stacy manages to take a character that has not been around in decades and imbue her with a fresh, modern take that makes her the pinnacle of the pixie girl, even while wearing the same clothes as her 1960’s counterpart. She perfectly embodies the girl beloved by Marvel Zombies for generations and shows why Peter would fall for her (and why we may all be super sad in the future if the films follow the comics.) She blows away Kirsten Dunst’s Mary Jane, whose odd amalgamation of Gwen and Mary Jane Watson simply never gelled. In the villain department, The Lizard looks goofy, but as a bad guy he’s a welcome addition. Like Garfield though, he often seems to be playing two different characters at times in ways that can’t be explained just by his transformation into a big Sleestak.

The most maddening thing about the film is that it often seems to be trying too hard to set up a dense mythology and set-up sequels at the expense of the film that’s unspooling. This is done to a greater degree than Iron Man 2, which was criticized for some of the same things. Subplots about Peter’s parents’ disappearance and death at the hands of some shadowy, vague conspiracy simply do not work and seem to point to larger mistakes to come where Peter will be set up as a “chosen one.” This already puts the character in danger of losing the everyman appeal that makes up a lot of the reason the character enjoys the large fanbase he does. When dealing with a character who is already a scientific genius with super-powers and a highly attractive girlfriend, it’s a tough tightrope to walk and Amazing Spider-Man threatens him falling from it. It’s common for entertainment properties to set themselves up as ready made franchise trilogies these days, with seeds of future films sprinkled throughout chapters. In some cases this certainly works, like the Harry Potter novel and film series. But in the case of Spider-Man, this is something that has never been a part of the story or character (and retcons to his story to do so in the comics have had disastrous results like the infamous “Sins of the Past” storyline.)

The other unfortunate thing about the film is that in seeking to differentiate itself from the Raimi films, it tries to copy the type of design and cinematography that have accompanied Nolan’s existential Batman flicks. Blues and grays are all over and it seems like an oddly large portion of the film takes place at night. And it’s not just the dour visuals that they’ve copied, but a good portion of the film feels like it is a template lifted directly from Batman Begins. The good thing is that they try to insert humor enough that it never feels too heavy for a Spider-film and keeps it from falling into a black hole of Gotham. Unfortunately, because of the color palate partially, it also doesn’t feel like most of the film takes place in New York, but rather some generic city. Still, at least effects technologies have come far enough in ten years that regardless of the city he’s swinging around, it looks very good.

With all this kvetching, it certainly must sound like it’s a bad film, but the truth is, it’s not. In parts, the action is exciting, the humor is funny and the performances are excellent. It probably has the best Stan Lee cameo of any of the Marvel films. There are plenty of reasons to watch it. While there are ridiculous parts to the film (especially a scene involving a huge coincidence and a bunch of cranes), when the film isn’t about selling you on a sequel, it’s usually a lot of fun. It’s easier to write up gripes than compliments, but the characters usually work and that’s the most important thing.

It’s just not, well, amazing.

(Three stars out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Ted

Mark Wahlberg will soon be yelling at the urinal.

The “man-child grows up” film is nothing new in Hollywood these days. There are two different ways the story usually plays out; either as a female fantasy about fixing a flawed guy or as a way of criticizing that fantasy. Ted manages to walk a particular tight-rope that allows both of these ideas, much the same way as Shaun of the Dead did. This is not to say that the films are the same, of course. There’s a big difference between Edgar Wright and the guy that created the TV show that won’t die. Yes, it’s a romantic comedy from Seth McFarlane, the basis for a lot of Fox’s now mediocre Sunday block.

The main gist of the story is that Bostonian John Bennett (the oft angry and confused Mark Wahlberg) was an unpopular child who, upon receiving a teddy bear one magical Christmas Day, gets his wish that his bear would come to life so they can be best friends forever. 25 years later, they’re a couple of foul-mouthed buddies who prefer to sit on the couch all day, watch Flash Gordon and get baked, if they have their druthers. The teddy bear is now Ted, a former celebrity who has faded into obscurity, but has never steered away from his main purpose of being John’s BFF. The problem with that is Lori, John’s girlfriend (Mila Kunis), who wants him to get himself together and be responsible enough to… well, not skip-out from his mediocre job and get high all day.

The fortunate thing about what McFarlane does with the film is that he avoids the usual cliches by making Lori an actual three-dimensional character. She doesn’t want John to change everything about himself. She loves him for who he is and she understands the importance of Ted in John’s life. She just wants John to get his own life so they can move forward as a couple. Given John’s actions throughout the film, audience members are able to be highly sympathetic to her way of thinking. Without ruining any jokes, she’s given plenty of reasons to be upset with Ted’s place in John’s arrested development, though McFarlane is also smart enough to point out John’s own place in his self-destructive behavior.

Ted himself is surprisingly one of the better-rendered CGI characters that has come about. His interactions with John and others work very well for a special effect in the hands of a first-time live-action director. (That said, the look of the film is pretty darn pedestrian for the most part. Perhaps it’s due to his animation background, but a lot of it feels like the set-ups and filming are very static and front and center. As a comedy, that’s not necessarily an issue, but it is noteworthy.) In a lot of ways, Ted inevitably feels like a teddy bear version of Peter Griffin, albeit with a Boston accent instead of Rhode Island, let loose without a network censor. The good news is that back in the day before it’s initial cancellation, Family Guy was a pleasant enough diversion and this manages to skirt closer to the sweet-but-weird nature of those early efforts. There are a few odd pop-cultural cut-aways, but only one of them seems terribly out of place and even it manages not to overstay its welcome. (Some of the others benefit from being delivered by the always fantastic Patrick Stewart.) There are also some oddball plots that don’t necessarily go anywhere but do add to the humor and several cameos, mostly from his animated series’ voice cast (and Supergirl), that don’t over-do it.

One other thing noteworthy about the film is the music. While most TV comedies (and especially cartoons) have languished with canned music over the years, Family Guy has always benefitted from the orchestral scores of Walter Murphy and McFarlane is smart enough to port him over to his film work. Murphy’s work for the film absolutely elevates it and lends it a sense of class that it may not deserve, but certainly benefits from.

In the end, the film is a success because it will likely make you laugh. It may not be the best comedy of the year, and who knows if it will stand the test of time, but it is definitely a step up from what this kind of film usually is and it definitely works better than most special-effects comedies.

(Three and a half out of five stars)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Dark Shadows

At least nobody sparkles.

Once again, Johnny Depp has crawled up into the black, velvety warmth of Tim Burton’s goth-gina. And in doing so, he gives one of his best performances of recent memory in service of a truly mediocre film.

While the idea of Burton directing a film based on a 60’s soap opera surrounding a vampire certainly has a certain appeal on paper, the film itself has such an issue establishing tone whilst dropping and picking up plotlines seemingly at random, it ends up being an absolute mess (but without the bizarre charm that made Mars Attacks a darkly fun mess.)

To start with the things about the film that work, there are several good performances here. Despite his plasticine hair and make-up that makes him look like a character from a black and white horror film surrounded by a wash of tie-dyed color, Depp does give a winning performance as the long-gone patriarch of the Collins clan, the vampiric Barnabas. He plays funny and sympathetic, but never makes you forget he’s now a monster. He protects his family and tries to find justice, but he also is a remorseless killing machine. The rest of the cast puts in serviceable to excellent performances as well, but the problem is that many of them feel like they’re acting in different films. Chloe Grace-Moretz, and Jackie Earl Haley are both often funny, but they’re not given all that much to do. Bella Heathcote is lovely, but with the exception of a flashback that is one of the few moments of the film with real pathos, she mostly seems to exist (like her namesake from that other vampire property) to be a blank canvas on which Barnabas can project. Alice Cooper rehashes his cameo in Wayne’s World, but without the chance to be an actual character. Helena Bonham Carter possibly might be trying to become a middle-aged female version of Crispin Glover because her acting choices just get more and more nuts. And Eva Green shows that if any producers can’t get Gary Oldman to be a scenery-chewing villain, they can change the gender of the character and cast her. She seems to not just be in another movie, but possibly on another planet.

The design of the film actually works really well. The Collins mansion is beautifully realized and the seventies motifs manage to hold onto a lot of the mod ’60s, which seems absolutely perfect for Burton’s camera. It’s one of the better looking films he’s done in a while: Full, but never overdone like Alice in Wonderland.

It’s the plot where the film really falls apart as the film can’t decide what it is. Part of me wants to say it’s a commentary on the nature of soap opera in as much as characters and ideas are simply dropped in and from the film with little warning, but it’s either too subtle to truly come off that way or it was never intended as such. And the ending has so much about it that is completely out of left field, that it feels like there was a reel missing. Moretz’ character especially has a plot twist that simply comes with no warning. Green’s witch character (who cursed Barnabas in the first place to his fate) has such an odd turn at the end that it seems to have happened just because the script writers (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s Seth Grahame-Smith being one of them) must have written themselves into a corner and just said “screw it.” It’s actually sad that something which, based on the trailer promised a wacky romp, ends up being far too maudlin for it’s own good so that when the over-the-top ending strikes, it’s simply too much at once.

At most, Dark Shadows is a cult film for cable and the Burton faithful.

(Two out of five stars)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Brave

Think I'll listen to some Flogging Molly.

In a lot of ways this year has been a bit predictable at the cinema, but one of the biggest surprises has come from the house of mouse. While the trailer for the main Disney Animation department’s Wreck-It Ralph makes it look like something of a cross between Toy Story (with its combination of familiar ‘playthings’ mixed with original characters) and Monsters Inc. (a “video game world,” much like the world of monsters, or Cars for that matter), the Pixar arm has made a classic fairy tale. So basically, Disney has made a Pixar movie and Pixar has made a Disney film. I can’t speak to the quality of Ralph yet (though I am very encouraged by the trailer and can’t wait to see it), but as far as Pixar goes, they have been highly successful in taking on the creation of an original tale that, like Tangled (the film that looks like it may be the “Little Mermaid” of the next Diz renaissance), manages to create a fable that is charming, full of personality and often very funny while avoiding the kind of full-blown post-modernism that made the first Shrek film a quirky diversion… and the rest of the Shrek films ham-fisted and terrible.

Actually, if there’s one adjective I would use to describe Brave, it would absolutely be “charming.” The design is a great mix of old-world and cartoony, with the character design standing out as varied, but never seeming out of place with one another. The story seems like something that could have been updated from a Grimm tale, with a decidedly old-school Walt feel to the proceedings. With the exception of not having any musical numbers, it features the same kind of economic, straight-forward storytelling that surrounded films like Sleeping Beauty; albeit with a decidedly new-school resolution to the proceedings..

Merida, the story’s ginger-locked heroine, is seeking to avoid betrothal at all costs and in doing so, sets out on a course that could send her father’s fragile new kingdom into war. Along the way, lessons are learned (communication is the key to understanding seems to be the moral of the day) and eventually she figures out that using brains and diplomacy is the best option to get her way. On the route to that truth, she ends up doing more than just putting the kingdom in danger, however. Her family also ends up in the crosshairs of her efforts. Without trying to spoil the plot of the second half of the film that Disney’s marketing department has tried to hide, let’s just say that the fairy tale label is accurate indeed.

(As an aside, I’ve read some commentaries about the film in which some people seem to miss the point of the story because they’re too busy trying to demand completely modern political philosophies in a fairy tale about a royal family a long, long time ago in a Scotland far, far away. Unless you totally miss the points of historical setting and metaphor, you should be fine.)

Another way Brave is reminiscent of old-school Disney fairy tales is that there feel like there are stakes. Like with Toy Story 3, it feels like there is risk in the story; like things may not end up happily ever after and that the animators are playing for keeps. There is danger, violence and, yes, death. Fortunately, there is also a lot of comedy. Often just a smidge ruder than one usually sees in a Pixar film as well, which I would imagine partly led to the PG rating that was bestowed on it, but never to the point that it feels like fart jokes inserted merely to satiate the demands of studio execs. The moment in the middle of the film that seems to fully transform the story into a tale of the supernatural is full of whimsical touches that never feel overdone. A lot of the humor is also character based. The various clans are artfully rendered in their oddball natures. The voice acting of Billy Connolly especially seems to be made for Pixar to use as he makes Merida’s father into what one would imagine King Robert from Game of Thrones would be like if he were actually a half-decent monarch. He brings a lot of laughs to the table by himself, but the triplet younger brothers of the family are instant classic comedic characters.

When Cars 2 came out last year, I defended it as a good film that, despite having an oddball charm of it’s own in reversing the message of the first film, managed to be the least of Pixar’s efforts. Brave does not suffer that same damning with faint praise. While certainly not one of their absolute best films, Brave is a more-than-solid entry in their ledger that probably would be around the same place as Ratatouille and the first Toy Story in my personal rankings. Which is to say, a film I will revisit and enjoy many times in the years to come.

(Four out of five stars)