I’m only posting this link to say how much I disagree with the review of the movie. This review contains a bunch of the same arguments I’ve seen floating around too. I’ve struggled to express why I disagree but found the perfect reply in the comments. The author Peter David made a great comment that pretty much summarizes my feelings in a much more eloquent way than I ever could.
You reviewed what you wanted the film to be and your misunderstanding of what the filmmakers intended it to be.
It was never intended to be anything BUT a simple story: a small film focused on a mother/daughter conflict. The inspiration for it was taken by the film’s originator, Brenda Chapman, inspired by her own relationship with her own teen daughter. They simply took it to a heightened level since they’re queen/princess and the peace of the kingdom is on the line.
Merida’s being a brat? No. She’s being a typical teenage girl. I’ve had to deal with three teenager daughters so far, and heard not only the arguments they had with their mother, but the arguments THEIR friends had with THEIR mothers. All Pixar did was kick it back a few centuries and add magic to the mix.
Your description of what you think the film should have been comes across, frankly, like bad studio notes. “Yes, we know you’re trying to tell a small story about mother/daughter relationships, but you know what it really needs? A massive war story involving mythical invaders. That would make it not only a better story, but much more appealing to adult males, because why should young girls and moms have stories angled to their interests?” Personally I think Pixar is to be commended for taking a story that was always intended to be a small, emotional mom/daughter tale and hewing to that creative vision rather than turning it to something unrecognizable.
How can you on the one hand claim that there’s no character growth and on the other state that Merida isn’t saying, “My God, what have I done to my mother!” You missed the entire point! From the moment of her mother’s transformation, Merida spends the whole time asserting that *she* didn’t do anything. It wasn’t her fault. Nothing was her fault. It was the witch’s doing. It’s only at the climax of the film, when she assumes responsibility for her actions, that her character completes the character arc that you claim isn’t there.
Meanwhile in the course of the film, Merida remembers all the times that her mother was there for her in the past, and witnesses her mother repeatedly defending her and saving her from threats. She comes to realize the depth and feeling of love her mother has for her rather than just seeing her as an impediment. At the same time, her mother appreciates, in a way she never did before, the value and worth of her daughter’s self-reliance, and realizes she’d be diminishing her daughter’s worth by forcing her down a path that Merida wouldn’t be happy following. THAT is where her decision to support her daughter came from, and just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.
There’s no “B” plot? Again, more bad studio note mentality. The “A” plot is the emotional story of mother and daughter with a dysfunctional relationship and how they get it back on track. The “B” plot is the perspective suitors and the potential for war if none of them is chosen. It’s like critiquing “Pinocchio” or “Sleeping Beauty” for lack of a B plot: It’s taking a myopic view of what you think a film absolutely has to be and deciding a movie is poorly made if it’s not there.
There’s no real connection to the brother’s story? Did you watch the same movie I did? There was nothing BUT connection, right down to that it was the same witch who cursed both Mor’du and also Merida’s mother. Again, it was right there; you just didn’t see it. Whether that makes it a bad movie or you simply a lousy viewer is naturally open to interpretation.
Personally, I think it met the Pixar standard just fine. I think instead it failed to meet YOUR standard of what you think a movie with a warrior princess should be. Which has a certain irony in the strictest sense: Merida fought against preconceptions of what she should be, and here you are criticizing the film because she wasn’t what you thought she should be.