Pixar takes aim again at original storytelling in a classic vein, and kicks Disney's wrinkly butt at its favorite game: Princess adventures. Brave is not entirely successful at realizing its own potential, but it's a fine film from a new wave of Pixar filmmakers. It'll scare the pants off some younger viewers, too.
First, the usual victories: Wall*E gives us a tale of adventure starring a likable hero whose specific travails are matched to a more universal yearning—in this case, the desire to love and be loved. Without feeling as formulaic as modern Disney animation ("and you are the princess, and you will be the two little animals or candlesticks who will provide advice and comic relief"), Wall*E hits the notes we want hit. We love the hero, we sympathize with and relate to his struggle, we are fascinated by the inventive world in which he exists. The film does not pander to the youngest audience members with a parade of fart jokes, but there's enough slapstick and delightfully simple comedy and drama to engage the kids who will swarm to see it. And in this case, the fact that from the beginning, the desire for love is represented as the innocent desire to hold hands is perfectly heartbreaking.
[rating:5]Director: Brad BirdStarring: Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Janine Garafolo
After the disappointing detour into mediocrity that was â€œCars,â€ one could fear that perhaps the Disneyfication of Pixar meant that a great era of animation was ending prematurely. This would appear to not be the case, because â€œRatatouilleâ€ is an enchanting cinematic experience on a par with â€œToy Story,â€ â€œThe Incredibles,â€ and even â€œFinding Nemo.â€
Writer-director Brad Bird, who also did â€œThe Incrediblesâ€ and the beloved under-the-radar hit â€œThe Iron Giant,â€ creates a compelling tale from not the likeliest of subjects: A French rat who finds a way to become a top Parisian chef. Birdâ€™s story bounces all over the place with well-placed surprises and diversions. He masterfully finds ways to give us familiar and satisfying confrontations with catalogue bad guys that feel fresh and surprising, partly because he lets his plot pinball around a bit, making its essential progressions feel unforced.