I’m taking a break from promoting my latest release, UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE, so I can piss and moan about Pixar, and also movie critics.
Yeah. Pixar. The good guys. Their worst movie is WALL-E. Which was terrific. (I haven’t seen Cars or the sequel, so I can only comment on the ones I’ve seen. I suspect WALL-E was way better, because I’m not into cars that sound just like Owen Wilson, but it’s not fair to assume without actually seeing it, so I gotta stick with the robots. Sorry, WALL-E and EVE. I actually love you guys, but I love Randall and Dug (Up) and Sulley and Mike (Monsters, Inc.) and Woody and Rex (Toy Story) and Elastigirl and Frozone (The Incredibles) more.
Anyway, I was back on board the Pixar train and my daughter had been counting the days until we could see Brave and bask in Scottish accents (we love them, and we’re both Scottish). Now that I give it some thought, to be honest, I wasn’t just looking forward to the movie, but rather the whole Pixar experience: cool previews, and hearing all the hype, then seeing the movie, then reading the reviews, and finally nodding in approval as the movie in question got nominated for all kinds of awards. I’ve been on this ride before, so I was expecting the experience to be just super duper swell.
Oh, the movie was fine. It’s the critics who are pooping all over my Pixar experience. See, I hate spoilers so I was saving the reviews to read after we’d seen BRAVE. (Yeah, I know. That defeats the purpose of the review, to not let it influence whether or not I see a movie. But too many reviewers are helpless to resist proving they got to see the movie days or weeks before the unwashed—me!—and let the spoilers fly. So I just wait until after.)
Anyhoo, Brave was about Merida, a teenage princess trapped in the role her mother wants for Merida, as opposed to the role Merida wants for Merida. Or, as her father, King Fergus, puts it, "I don't want to get married! I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset." Hey, everyone should have a goal. Brave was your basic Pixar/Disney story: a plucky underdog battles long odds and comes out on top at the end by being true to themselves, the end, roll credits, good job, gang, and we’ll see you at the Academy Awards.
That’s where the whole thing changes. Once it was out of Pixar’s hands and into those of the critics. Because several reviews were less than favorable. Not because of the animation—loved it! Pretty much everyone thought the animation was stellar, all the way across the board. One reviewer compared Merida’s flaming mane to paprika, which I thought was terrific. Paprika! Great! And the story? Pretty great, too. The characters? Well...um...most of the characters were great.
With one glaring exception: the princess. The girl. Nobody likes her, seems like. "Unlikeable" was the kindest comment. And when I read a few more reviews, though I hated to do it, I had to agree with the reviewers. They’d pegged the heroine’s character with devastating accuracy. Princess Merida is selfish. She lacks empathy for anyone, especially her mom. She's spoiled. She doesn't listen. She blames others for situations she created. She doesn't take responsibility. She's...a teenage girl.
Yep: Pixar created a character very true to life, a real person with real-world quirks, a teenage girl who behaves like a teenage girl, and the reviewers thought that sucked rocks. Which makes no sense. Because plenty of male Pixar characters have been much worse, and we all fell all over ourselves cheering them on. (I did, too! Guilty guilty guilty!)
Let's talk about another selfish overindulged brat with no empathy for the parent who would gladly die for him. (Yeah, Nemo, you finned brat, I'm hitting your buzzer.) This kid (minnow?) ignored his father's advice, then ignored his father's command to not touch something designed, built, and operated by THE MOST RAPACIOUS PREDATORS THIS PLANET HAS EVER SEEN. (No, not the barracuda that ate his mom and all his siblings. Dentists.)
Call Marlin crazy and over-protective, but he was all about trying to keep his last living child safe, but the bound-for-sushi brat didn't give a shit; instead he was all, oh suuuuure, most of my family was wiped out but hey, that happened before I was born and it's in the past so drop dead, Daddy-O, I wanna learn Mr. Ray's song about the zones, the zones, the zones.
(Sidebar: before I found out why some people were down on BRAVE, I really had no problem with Nemo and his borderline-sociopathic antics. But once I started thinking about it...thanks for nothing, critics! I hate thinking and you made me do it!)
Anyway, Nemo blows off his PTSD-laden dad and not only puts himself in direct mortal danger, but also his father, numerous innocent bystanders, and Ellen Degeneres. This resulted in, among other things, exploding mines which would have sunk any ships in the vicinity, at least one child assaulted by Willem DaFoe, a health care worker's livelihood being threatened, a whale accidentally aspirating a clownfish and Ellen Degeneres, an addict in a twelve-step program relapsing, and a trawler breaking, which meant all sorts of fishermen and their families would miss a few meals until they found the money to fix the trawler. Which could only happen if goddamned Nemo does what he's told for a pleasant change and go home with his dad, who was further traumatized when he thought Nemo was dead. (In Nemo's defense, all the above cured Ellen Degeneres's anterograde amnesia. But at what cost, people? What cost?)
So, Nemo: selfish? Check. Unlikeable? Check. Doesn't listen? Uh-huh. No empathy for a parent? Yep. Won't take responsibility for own actions? Yep, yep, yep to the nth. But when the movie came out, was anybody griping about what an entitled jerk Nemo was? Or were we all sobbing into our stale popcorn as we sat through the movie a third time while furtively downloading Bobby Darin's Beyond The Sea? Yup. Again, I plead guilty.
So that's what it is, and I won't deny I'm disappointed. Also, here's a fun fact! Brave was gonna be directed by the first female director to work for Pixar. Until she got fired. And replaced by a man. But the important thing is that Pixar tried for equality in a lame and half-assed way before giving it up as a bad business. But that's a rant for another day.
Bottom line: it's fine for degenerate fish to endanger their lives and the lives of their family and friends, but not girls from Scotland. I...don't get it. But then, I'm hungry and it's hard to think when I'm hungry. So I think tonight, for dinner...sushi.
That oughta clear my head.
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You can yell at MaryJanice for picking on those poor critics at www.maryjanicedavidson.net, where you can also check out her blog, FaceBook, and Yahoo groups, as well as get peeks at upcoming books and preview chapters.