One of the drawbacks of having a baby is that someday we’ll have to go to kids’ movies with her. I am not looking forward to this aspect of fatherhood, and a recent experience reaffirmed my reticence. For research purposes (long story), I decided to rewatch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and then, a few days later I finally got around to watching Pixar’s Brave. Both were lame.
First, there’s Snow White and the seven dwarzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Seriously, nothing happens in this movie. There’s a whole ten minute sequence in which the dwarfs… wait for it… sleep. That’s it. They sleep. I considered joining them. This whole movie is basically about 15 minutes long, but it fills two hours by dragging out every tiny little action that any of the characters take. Snow White decides to clean the house? Cool, that’ll kill fifteen minutes. The Dwarfs get ready to go to work in the morning? That’s a solid ten minutes.
It’s easy to say, “well, this was made in the 1930s, so we should cut it some slack,” but that doesn’t really work. The Wizard of Oz came from that era, and it has a fast-paced plot, engaging music, and strong characters. Snow White has none of those things.
The Wizard of Oz also makes it harder to dismiss Snow White‘s horrific gender politics. Dorothy takes action and dreams of living an exciting life. Her most famous song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is about wanting to escape drudgery and live an exciting and independent life. Snow White just sits around waiting for her prince to come, hence her signature song, “Someday My Prince Will Come.”
Which is why I was excited to watch Brave (well, that and the fact that it’s set in Scotland).
I was reminded that I hadn’t seen Brave when the controversy erupted over Disney’s recent reworking of the character, turning Merida, the strong and reasonably proportioned heroine of the story, into a typical Disney princess, complete with a sexualized and anatomically impossible figure.
The gender politics of the movie were passable – Merida doesn’t want to be forced to marry one of the princes of the nearby clans, so she competes in the archery contest to win her hand and she wins. So far so good. Then, a witch turns her mother into a bear and Merida has to prevent her father from killing her mother while figuring out how to change her back. What does that really have to do with the earlier framing device? I’m still not sure. The story was disjointed and the movie seemed to be going out of his way to make a feminist statement rather than just telling a good story with a strong and independent female lead.
If Evie ends up liking this movie and wanting to watch it over and over, as kids usually do, I’ll be fine with the message she’s getting from it. Merida is, after all, strong, active, and independent. As an example for young girls, she’ll do. But as an example of good storytelling, this is one of Pixar’s shoddiest efforts to date.
And yet, it still got pretty good reviews, with most reviewers stating that the movie doesn’t live up to Pixar’s standard, but as a kid’s movie it was well above average. So that, apparently, is what I have to look forward to. If Brave is above average, I hate to think what average is, never mind below average.
Maybe I’ll just lie to Evie and tell her that she has some strange eye condition that will kill her if she watches animated features.